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Album Review

There's not a lot of Spade Cooley available — only a fraction of what one can find on Bob Wills — so this live performance from his first radio show, on July 21, 1951, is a welcome release. This was done five years or more after the contents of Sony's collection, after Cooley had become a major media star on television. The music includes solo spots for steel guitarist Noel Boggs and vocalists Becky Barfield, Ginny Jackson, and Phil Gray. Unfortunately, in contrast to Bob Wills' work, the performances and arrangements are more swing than Western, and they don't really swing that well — the resident bands on television shows such as The Old American Barn Dance did better. It's fun, but clunky, lacking the smoothness one expects and remembers. Luckily, the special guest is Jimmy Wakely, who performs three numbers including his then new release, "The Solid South," and it's amazing to hear the band come to life on his numbers. The disc includes three comedy routines from the show — luckily, they're indexed and can be bypassed on repeated listening (the jokes were old then, and haven't aged well). The sound is fair, without the crisp resolution of the best radio transcriptions.

Kings of Western Swing, Bob Willis & The Texas Playboys
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