Howdy! This page is part of my guide to the music of the so-called "singing cowboys..." Here are some of the best collections of western music -- below are links to reviews of records by individual artists. Please feel free to get in touch to offer any corrections or make suggestions about artists that can be included here.
Various Artists "BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN: AMERICAN COWBOY SONGS" (New World Records)
Various Artists "CATTLE CALL: EARLY COWBOY MUSIC AND ITS ROOTS" (Rounder, 1996)
Various Artists "DON'T FENCE ME IN: WESTERN MUSIC'S EARLY GOLDEN ERA" (Rounder, 1996)
Various Artists "STAMPEDE! WESTERN MUSIC'S LATE GOLDEN ERA, 1945-1960" (Rounder, 1996)
Various Artists "SADDLE UP! THE COWBOY RENAISSANCE" (Rounder, 1996)
An excellent series of discs which are broken up into different eras, from the rough-edged Harry McClintock recordings of the 1920s, on into the slick, chrome-plated, plastic-lacquered homage harmonies of the Riders In The Sky in the present day. Well programmed, and musically varied. An excellent starting point if you want to try this cowboy stuff out.
Various Artists "AUTHENTIC COWBOYS AND THEIR WESTERN FOLKSONGS" (RCA Vintage, 1965) (LP)
Raw stuff, a lot of it of with for-real, non-Hollywood, pedigree. Some of these weatherbeaten, dusty old-timers made it in off the cattle drives long enough to sit down in some recording studio and dash off a ditty about a wild horse roping, or treacherous trail drive, etc... Of course, just as many of these Depression-era "Cowboys" were just as tame as their motion picture counterparts -- professional musicians and radio personalities who spent more time in front of a microphone than on top of a cayuse. But if you're looking for some old-school "cowboy" songs, this is one of the best collections ever issued on LP.
Various Artists "BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN: AMERICAN COWBOY SONGS" (New World Records) (LP)
Various Artists "BOOTS TOO BIG TO FILL: A TRIBUTE TO GENE AUTRY" (Rainy Day, 2007)
An homage to cowboy king Gene Autry. A lot of top talent on this one, including Marty Stuart, Vince Gill, Jim Lauderdale and Pam Tillis, some Nashville old-timers such as Connie Smith and Glen Campbell and western revivalists like the Riders In The Sky and Ian Tyson, as well as members of the Autry family, Alan and Charlotte Autry... A swell set recorded in honor of Autry's birthday centennial.
Various Artists "COWBOY CROONERS: SING SONGS OF THE WEST" (Collector's Choice, 2004)
Super-groovy old recordings culled from various 1940s radio performances... It's the cream of the crop of both the "singing cowboys" scene and the western swing crowd, with headliners such as Elton Britt, Tex Ritter, Jimmie Davis, Bob and Johnnie Lee Wills, Eddy Arnold, Dale Evans, Roy Rogers and the ever-fab Sons Of The Pioneers, as well as a few less-well known singers... All of them are in fine form, and this 2-CD set is a delight from start to finish, with pleasantly recognizable big hits and kooky one-off novelty songs (such as "Gonna Build A Big Fence Around Texas," by Cowboy Joe Randall), all of which will bring a smile to your face, and make you hum along. Great fun... highly recommended!
Various Artists "COWBOY SONGS ON FOLKWAYS" (Smithsonian-Folkways, 1991)
Various Artists "IN THE WEST WHERE LIFE IS FREE" (Binge Disc/Buster Bronco)
Western music, with the "cowboy" sound, but not the home on the range subject matter. Features rare Decca singles by stars such as Jimmie Davis and Jimmy Wakely, alongside lesser-known artists such as Tiny Dodson or the Rodik Twins. Spare, sentimental old-time country music.
Various Artists "SILVER SCREEN COWBOYS" (Sony, 1994)
Various Artists "THE WESTERNS: MUSIC AND SONGS FROM CLASSIC WESTERNS" (Jasmine, 2010)
Various Artists "WHEN THE WORK'S ALL DONE THIS FALL" (Montana Folklife Project) (LP)
Hick Music Index