Foy Willing

Tumbling Tumbleweeds

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It's no accident that Foy Willing's singing cowboy group was formed in Los Angeles. Named after Zane Grey's western novel from 1912, the Riders of the Purple Sage presented an idealized Hollywood and movie-based view of the cowboy life, much like Bob Nolan's Sons of the Pioneers did, and both groups appeared in countless B-westerns in the 1940s (you know, as those guys riding on their horses a few paces behind the movie's star and singing harmonies to his lead -- surely that's what cowboy life was like). Musically the Riders injected a hair more Western swing and even traditional folk into their repertoire than the Pioneers did, but it was a difference by degree, and it worth noting that the title track for this brief set, "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," was written by Nolan and was originally recorded by the Sons of the Pioneers (it became, in fact, their theme song). The harmonies by the Riders on these sides are impressive, and romantically impressionistic ballads like "Twilight on the Trail" and "Blue Shadows on the Trail" have a sort of affected poetry about them that either augments or hinders (depending on one's point of view on such things) the truly mournfully beautiful melodies. Willing and company didn't spend all of their time on nostalgic versions of twilight western vistas, though, and on tracks like "Ragtime Cowboy Joe" they speed things up several notches into the realm of what might be called western jive. This set is by no means exhaustive, but it does provide a pretty good introduction to the Riders' style.

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