WHAT DO YOU LEARN from four CDs of cowboy songs? That there was – and still is, to an extent – a distinct cowboy song genre as American as jazz. That an important aspect of the American identity was mythologized in these songs. And that the genre exploded into popularity so quickly that it was glamorized by Hollywood and easily turned self-referential, so that in 1975, Rex Allen, Jr., could pay tribute to his country-singer dad with “Can You Hear Those Pioneers?,” including backup vocals by two of the then-current Sons of the Pioneers.
Yodeling is a big part of this collection, beginning with Jimmie Rodgers’ “When the Cactus Is in Bloom.” Tex Owens’ “Cattle Call” is presented in its original version and in the famous Eddy Arnold cover; Patsy Montana (whom you heard on the soundtrack of the movie “Lone Star”) warbles through “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” and Riders in the Sky tell us “That’s How the Yodel Was Born,” among many other examples.
You don’t need to be picking your horse’s hooves out on some damn prairie to get a charge out of this set. Try a volume or two and I guarantee you’ll go for them all.
Cattle Call: Early Cowboy Music and Its Roots
Don’t Fence Me In: Western Music’s Early Golden Era
Stampede!: Western Music’s Late Golden Era
Saddle Up!: The Cowboy Renaissance
– Metroland Magazine, 10 July 1997