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Public Cowboy #1: A Centennial Salute to the Music of Gene Autry

Riders In the Sky

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Album Review

Gene Autry may not have been the first great star of country music (that honor would go to Jimmie Rodgers), but it would be decades before another artist in the genre would have the impact Autry had on the public — as a movie star and radio personality, he was the first C&W act to "cross over," and by launching the "singing cowboy" craze he attached a western mythos to country that remains a vital part of its heart and soul today. Autry also had a pleasing tenor voice, a knack for picking the right material and the engaging personality to make his songs click with an audience, and Riders in the Sky, the singing group who have devoted their career to the sort of sagebrush melodies Autry made his stock-in-trade, arguably wouldn't exist without his musical influence, so it's appropriate that they cut a fine tribute in 1996, in which they covered a dozen of his best-known songs. In 2007, in recognition of Autry's 100th birthday, Riders in the Sky released an expanded version of Public Cowboy #1 with four additional tunes from the Autry songbook, and it remains one of the Riders' most pleasing and heartfelt albums. While Riders in the Sky's trademark sense of humor takes a backseat on these selections (though glimmers can be heard on "Sioux City Sue" and "Can't Shake the Sands of Texas from My Shoes"), their harmonies are spot on (as usual), and they sing every tune with the enthusiasm of a true fan, from jaunty, upbeat numbers like "Back in the Saddle Again" and "Mexicali Rose" to ballads such as "Lonely River," "Blue Canadian Rockies," and "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine." The spare but evocative arrangements match the spirit of Autry's recordings, and the four bonus selections added for this reissue match the beauty of the original set; anyone with a taste for the more pop-oriented wing of classic cowboy music will enjoy this living tribute to one of the giants of the genre, and the execution is every bit as strong as the good intentions behind it.

Biography

Formed: 1977 in Nashville, TN

Genre: Country

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Beginning each performance with their trademark greeting, "Mighty fine and a great big Western 'Howdy,' all you buckaroos and buckarettes," Riders in the Sky simultaneously paid tribute to and poked gentle fun at the classic cowboy songs of the 1930s and 1940s, particularly the work of the Sons of the Pioneers, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry. During the 1980s and 1990s, the group was notable for its ability to attract fans both firmly within the country tradition (the Riders are members of the Grand...
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Public Cowboy #1: A Centennial Salute to the Music of Gene Autry, Riders In the Sky
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