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Western Music on Bear Family Records Part 1

The American West is a big place

, so it’s appropriate that the 'Western' musical genre be more expansive and inclusive than most. There are the traditional songs of the cowboys, for example, though even cowboy traditionalists can be radical, like Peter La Farge the Native American activist and Greenwich Village rebel. Film composer Dimitri Tiomkin was no cowboy, but his music for the 1952 film 'High Noon' spawned a whole new era of Western-inspired popular songs.

The original High Noon is among our albums here. There had been plenty of songs in the B-Westerns of the 1930s and ‘40s, but it wasn’t until the marriage of song with story in 'High Noon' that Western film and TV theme songs became a strong feature of our popular culture. Western films of grander scope and higher purpose (so-called 'adult' Westerns) loomed large in the 1950s and ‘60s, and great theme songs became nearly as important as big-name stars. Similarly, the small-screen’s move westward in the late 1950s brought Frankie Laine singing Rawhide into living rooms each week.

Such TV Western stars as Sheb Wooley and Robert Fuller made albums of Western material, as did the 'Tennessee Plowboy' Eddy Arnold, no less unlikely a cowpoke than Frankie Laine. This West may have been fantasy enlarged by Hollywood sound stages and orchestras, but it became a part of our world’s soundtrack, the sound of a place big enough for Canadian yodelers, country singing stars and singing screen stars to all stake their claim on a genre that’s everything you imagine it to be. And it’s all here. Marc Humphrey  

SONS OF THE PIONEERS THE STANDARD RADIO TRANSCRIPTIONS, VOL. 2. (4 CDs)

Back in the depth of the Depression, the Sons of the Pioneers began recording radio shows on transcription for Standard Radio in Los Angeles. Unheard for more than 60 years, these transcriptions show western music's preeminent harmony group in a fresh and different light. Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan, Tim Spencer and Hugh Farr began recording for Standard less than one year after they had organized their group, and the repertoire was comprised for the greater part of songs that they didn't record commercially.

The looseness and spontaneity are infectious, the harmonies are faultless, and the instrumentation features the jazzy fiddle and guitar of Hugh and Karl Farr. This second 4-CD volume of Standard transcriptions comprises 121 songs, including some that went on to become Sons of the Pioneers' classics, such as One More Ride and Cool Water. The core of the shows, though, was vintage pop and western songs, hymns, folk songs, and the Farrs' improvisations.

These include Stephen Foster favorites like Nelly Bly, Ring Ring De Banjo, Hard Times, Swanee River, and Old Kentucky Home; traditional western ballads such as When The Work's All Done This Fall, Jesse James, Old Paint, Darling Clementine, and Billy The Kid; hymns, including Leaning On The Everlasting Arm, Climbing Jacob's Ladder, and Old Time Religion; and innovative arrangements of traditional folk songs like Gambler's Blues, Rosewood Casket, Jack O'Diamonds, Birmingham Jail, and Rye Whiskey.

The box includes a 32-page booklet by Laurence J. Zwisohn that continues the story of the Sons of the Pioneers during their formative era, and includes rare photos, as well as a discography.    

 

REX ALLEN VOICE OF THE WEST

Astride Koko, 'Miracle Horse of the Movies', Arizona's Rex Allen blazed a trail through B-Westerns while recording for Mercury and Decca in the 1940s and ‘50s.

In 1972, Allen went to Nashville to record nine Western songs (and/or recitations) and a half dozen more contemporary country offerings (including Merle Haggard's Today I Started Loving You Again) for Jack Clement’s JMI label.

 

Highlights of these recordings include a woolly Western toast, Braggin' Drunk From Wilcox, and a wonderful Fiddle Medley from Johnny Gimble, one of the ace session players accompanying Allen's baritone.  

 

 

EDDY ARNOLD THEREBY HANGS A TALE / CATTLE CALL

In 1959, RCA Nashville producer-guitarist Chet Atkins brought Jimmie Driftwood's Tennessee Stud to Eddy Arnold and gave 'The Tennessee Plowboy' his first major hit in three years.

That success, scored in the wake of the Kingston Trio's Tom Dooley, prompted the Atkins-Arnold team to prepare an album of folk-based saga songs, 'Thereby Hangs A Tale.' In 1963, a second 'folk' album, this with an exclusively Western theme, reprised Arnold's 1955 hit, Cattle Call.

This 25-song collection brings together all the 1959-1963 'folk & Western' recordings of country's Crosby, souvenirs of a time when saga songs became hit records.  

 

 

 

BOBBY BARNETT AMERICAN HEROES & WESTERN LEGENDS

Two of the most-requested LPs in our old mail order catalogues were ‘Heroes, History & Heritage of Oklahoma’ and ‘Heroes, History & Heritage, Vol. 2.’ Now we’ve reissued them complete on one CD. In these LPs, Bobby addresses Oklahoma legends and western legends.

Most of the songs are self-composed and take an entirely new slant on some of the most familiar and feared figures in American folklore and some of the events that shaped western history.

 

The 27 titles include The Hanging Of Judge Parker, Bill Doolin, Gunfight At The OK Corral, The Story Of The Dalton Gang, The Run Of ‘89, The Ballad Of Geronimo, The Lost Dutchman Mine, Salute To Will Rogers and The Ballad Of Pretty Boy Floyd.  

 

BONANZA (4 CDs)

BCD15684 DI It's the television show that won't go away. The last epic TV western series is still in re-runs 30 years later and still has a huge following.

All 'Bonanza' fans will need this It contains the two albums by the complete cast, Lorne Greene's four albums (including 'Welcome To The Ponderosa'), an album by Dan Blocker with John Mitchem, an album by Pernell Roberts, and - finally - a gift to you from Hop Sing!  

 

 

 

 

  

JOHNNY CASH COME ALONG AND RIDE THIS TRAIN (4 CDs)

Johnny Cash was one of the first to explore the idea of the concept album in country music.

This set brings together all of his uniquely American albums, 'Ride This Train', 'Blood Sweat & Tears', 'Mean As Hell', 'Ballads Of The True West', 'Bitter Tears', 'America: A 200 Year Salute', 'From Sea To Shining Sea', and 'The Rambler.' Bob Allen writes,

 

"This collection eloquently embodies one man's love, celebration, curiosity, anguish, and personal vision of his native land."  

 

 

 

 

 

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