During the second half of the '20s, Gene Austin was the most popular singer in the U.S., his airy tenor and jaunty style generating dozens of hits with Roaring Twenties anthems like "Yes Sir! That's My Baby" and "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue," though his most popular songs were the ballads "My Blue Heaven" and "Ramona." Compiler/producer Peter Dempsey has included the latter two, as well as the chart-topper "Carolina Moon," in this 25-track retrospective of Austin's recordings between 1925 and 1936. But the selection otherwise bears only a coincidental relationship to Austin's biggest hits. Dempsey is at least as interested in Austin's sidemen as in the singer himself, including, for example, such less-popular material as "I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling," composed by Fats Waller, who is also heard on piano, and "A Ghost of a Chance," co-written by Austin's great successor, Bing Crosby, and featuring a backing by the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. Austin is as effective with such a jazz band accompaniment as he is on "Ev'rything's Made for Love" with only Art Fowler's ukulele behind him. Voice of the Southland gives a well-rounded sense of Austin's talent, but due to the small amount of his material currently available in the digital age, a greater focus on the hits would have been welcome.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Aileen Stanley