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RCA Country Legends: Sons of the Pioneers

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Album Review

The Sons of the Pioneers recorded for RCA labels from 1944 to the late '60s, a period that came long after the group had waxed the originals of "Cool Water" and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," and also after the former Leonard Slye (aka Roy Rogers) had moved on to a solo career. Still, the backbone of the group — vocalists Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer plus the hot fiddle-guitar tandem of Hugh and Karl Farr — remained intact, and the Pioneers often wrote excellent material. Their volume in the RCA Country Legends series includes only 16 tracks, but it's a perfectly selected compilation, perhaps skimping on the hits but, in the process, taking in all manner of intriguing material. These latter-day versions of "Cool Water" and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" may not exert the primal force of the originals, but they're equal in quality and, thanks to the Pioneers' long screen time in Westerns during the '40s, just as familiar to listening audiences. Steering away from the obvious hits, the compilation includes the controversial antiwar screed "Old Man Atom," a pair of 1946 instrumentals from the Farr Brothers that illustrate how far the influence of jazzmen Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang permeated, and "Blue Shadows on the Trail," their contribution to Walt Disney's Melody Time (which also reunited them with Rogers). It also finds them easily adjusting to changing times with a pair of late-'40s honky tonk chestnuts ("Grievin' My Heart Out for You" and the slightly outsized "Cigareetes, Whusky and Wild, Wild Women") and a 1952 cover of the early trucker hit "Diesel Smoke."


Formed: 1934 in Central Valley, CA

Genre: Country

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

The Sons of the Pioneers were the foremost vocal and instrumental group in western music, and the definitive group specializing in cowboy songs, setting the standard for every group that has come since. They were also one of the longest-surviving country music vocal groups in existence, going into their seventh decade. More important than their longevity, however, the greatest achievement of the Sons of the Pioneers lay with the sheer quality of their work. Their superb harmonies and brilliant arrangements...
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RCA Country Legends: Sons of the Pioneers, The Sons of the Pioneers
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