Howdy! This page is part of my guide to "western" music, the legacy of the so-called "singing cowboys." You gotta love this stuff, with its sweet, old-fashioned sentimental themes, its love of nature and the great outdoors. Here's a look at the legacy of western music, old and new, with reviews and recommendations to make your next cattle drive the best one yet. This page covers artists under the letter "G" - please feel free to make recommendations or comments if I've missed someone.
(PS - Don't forget the cowgals, as well!)
Belinda Gail "Lass Of The San Joaquin" (Broken Diamond, 1997)
Belinda Gail "Blessed Trails" (Broken Diamond)
Belinda Gail & Wildwind "Cowboy Code: The Life, The Love, The Land" (Broken Diamond, 2000)
Belinda Gail & Curly Musgrave "When Trails Meet" (Broken Diamond, 2003)
Belinda Gail "She Is A Cowgirl" (Broken Diamond, 2004)
Belinda Gail & Curly Musgrave "Red Rock Moon" (2006)
Belinda Gail & Curly Musgrave "Forever West" (Creakin Leather Music, 2008)
Belinda Gail/Various Artists "Our First Noel" (Cimmaron Sound, 2008)
A western holiday set, with Belinda Gail, Curly Musgrave, Kip Calahan and R. W. Hampton...
Belinda Gail "Granite Mountain" (Broken Diamond, 2014)
(Produced by Rich O'Brien)
Rusty Gill & The Westernaires "Cowboy Songs Mountain Ballads" (BACM, 2002)
A delightful set of cowboy and western songs by Midwesterner Rusty Gill, an affable crooner and regional star who was based in Chicago. Gill's relaxed vocal style was clearly modeled on the smooth style of big city stars such as Bing Crosby and Dick Haymes, but unlike Crosby, Gill's cowboy tunes weren't bogged down by corny pop orchestrations; there's plenty of sweet-sounding twang on here, provided by Gill's band, the Westernaires (a pseudonym for the Prairie Ramblers). This disc gathers together a bunch of high-quality radio transcription performances -- although the liner notes don't include information about the back-up musicians, there is a photo of Gill with a line-up of the Westernaires that included Wade Ray, so he may be on here as well. This is a great album -- Gill is a very robust, likable vocalist and the songs are all classics, played in a straightforward folk-country style, without as much of a jazzy influence as, say, Gene Autry's work of the same era. Highly recommended!
The Girls Of The Golden West "Home Sweet Home In Texas" (BACM, 2002)
One of the finest western music acts ever, the Good Sisters -- Dolly and Millie Good -- got their start in border radio and on regional radio in the Midwest. Then in the early 1930s, they became early stars on Chicago powerhouse WLS's "National Barn Dance" program, which made them national celebrities. This disc collects about two dozen prime tracks from their tenure on the Bluebird label -- it's all great stuff! The Girls are said to have been the first country music act to feature double yodeling melodies -- the rest of their harmonies are gorgeous as well.
The Girls Of The Golden West "Roll Along Prairie Moon" (BACM, 2004)
Otto Gray & His Oklahoma Cowboys "Early Cowboy Band" (BACM, 2005)
Rough-edged material from a band that is widely regarded as the first professional "western" country band... These recordings date back to 1926-31, with most of the tracks recorded for major labels like Victor and Okeh. The strengths of this disc are largely historical, with nods towards the old minstrel-show traditions -- Gray and his family (including his wife, "Mommie" Gray and son Owen) were all fairly crude singers, and the pacing on most tracks is a bit sluggish and slow. Still, it's pretty cool stuff... The material is bluesy, with covers of Leadbelly songs, Jimmie Rodgers-ish country yodels, and a lot of comedic material sung to a plunky, loping accompaniment; fans of the Cheap Suit Serenaders, Emmett Miller or the Hoosier Hotshots might really dig this. Highlights include a nice, gangly rendition of "I Had But Fifty Cents" and "The Terrible Marriage," which you'd think would be about flying rolling pins and lipstick on the collar, but is actually a clunky, longwinded early version of "I'm My Own Grandpa." There's also what was apparently the first-ever recording of the folk classic, "Midnight Special"(!) and a lively recording of "Who Broke The Lock On The Henhouse Door," complete with chicken squawks and a jovial chorus. Also some mild, casual racism, which was sadly indicative of the times. All in all, a nice snapshot of the primordial roots of country music. (Available through the British Archive of Country Music website.)
Curly Gribbs "Sings His Original Country & Western Yodeling Hits From The 1940s" (Cattle Records, 1983) (LP)
Hailing from Staten Island, New York, singer Curly Gribbs was one of countless young men who idolized Jimmie Rodgers, and later learned to sing in a more "hillbilly" style, imitating radio singer Elton Britt, who was a featured vocalist in the Zeke Manners Gang. When Britt left to become a solo star, Gribbs was tapped to replace him, and sang lead on many of the band's singles, including an early version of "Sioux City Sue." This LP gathers most (but sadly not all) of the fourteen tracks he recorded for Signature Records, which were released from 1945-48. Backing him was a local (New York) band that included Vaughn Horton on steel guitar, and bandleader Roy Ross on accordion. The material is a nice mix of pop schmaltz, country heartsongs and cowboy ballads, all very in tune with the perky, uptempo music being made out West by folks like Spade Cooley and Merle Travis. Gribbs had a nice voice, a jovial, round-toned style that slipped into crooning, like many of the smoother country stars of the time. (Unfortunately, a few years after he recorded these tracks, he underwent throat surgery in 1950 that left him unable to perform anymore...) To date, this seems to be the only collection of Curly Gribbs recordings: be nice to hear the rest of the Signature songs someday, maybe even coupled with some of his earlier work with Zeke Manners. Maybe... someday...
Wylie Gustafson - see artist discography
Hick Music Index