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 "S" - please feel free to make recommendations or comments if I've missed someone.
(PS - Don't forget the cowgals, as well!)
Jack Savage & His Cowboys "Little Sweetheart Of The Prairie" (BACM, 2005)
Linna Shane & The Sons Of The Purple Sage "Western Favorites" (Tops Records, 1958-?) (LP)
Singer Linna Shane was actually the nom-de-twang of Linna Biatress Schames (1929-1988) a Southern California cowgal who recorded with at least one edition of the Sons Of The Purple Sage, a western/cowboy act which had several permutations. Apparently, Shane's husband also plays on this album, and she may have been the "girl" singer on some of their other albums... The history of the band is a bit murky... There was one version of the group which came about when western music star Foy Willing split the difference with a guy called Buck Page who had a competing band also named the Riders Of The Purple Sage. Page started to perform as "The Sons Of The Purple Sage" although it looks like it was one of those things where various fly-by-night labels used the name to record a number of albums, either because they won it through a business contract, or because no one was able to enforce the ownership of the name. (I welcome input from anyone with more concrete infomation...) At any rate, there were about a half-dozen albums released under the Sons Of The Purple Sage, with musicians such as Tex Fletcher and Bob Wheeler, as well as the mysterious Ms. Shane. Although I suspect that this LP was cobbled together from various sources, the liner notes say that Bob Wheeler is the band's leader, and though there are a few different lead vocalists, I'm guessing he's the guy who sounds like Hank Snow. Most of the vocals are male, with Linna Shane adding some rather prissy lead vocals on a few tracks... The real draw here is the solid musicianship -- this is a fun album that's pure West Coast '40s/'50s country, mixing cowboy stuff with proto-honkytonk and western swing. Some great Hawaiian-style steel guitar, a little pedal steel perhaps, and of course plenty of chugging accordion. If you like that sound and that era, you may be surprised at how good this record is!
John Smith "Classics Of The Purple Sage" (Binge Disc/Bronco Buster)
Hank Snow "Snow Under Western Skies" (Bear Family, 2008)
Country legend Hank Snow indulges his love of cowboy music on this western-themed set that gathers oldies from his pre-Nashville days, radio recordings and songs from his 1965 album, Heartbreak Trail, a tribute to the Sons Of The Pioneers. Ride 'em, cowboy!
The Sons Of The Pioneers - see discography
The Sons Of The Purple Sage -- see discography
The Sons Of The San Joaquin "From Whence Came The Cowboy" (Dualtone/Western Jubilee, 1995)
The Sons Of The San Joaquin "Sing One For The Cowboy" (Shanachie/Western Jubilee, 2000)
As singing cowboy revivalists go, the Hannah Brothers -- Joe, Jack and Lon -- are pretty on the ball. These guys love those corny old ridin'-the-range tunes, and while they pay homage to the old masters such as Bob Nolan, they also write a bunch of new tunes which easily stand up on their own. The best of the new batch includes Jack Hannah's anthemic "California," which will now be the theme song to every trip I make up to Yosemite from now 'til the end of time. The rest of the album is pretty swell, too, with smooth, rounded tones galore and tons of exaggerated Americana and nostalgic western imagery. If you like the style already, this is worth checking out.
The Sons Of The San Joaquin "Horses, Cattle & Coyotes" (Dualtone/Western Jubilee, 1999)
(Produced by Rich O'Brien)
The Sons Of The San Joaquin "15 Years: A Retrospective" (Dualtone/Western Jubilee, 2002)
The Sons Of The San Joaquin "Way Out Yonder" (Western Jubilee, 2006)
(Produced by Rich O'Brien)
Hal Southern - see artist discography
Tim Spencer "Circuit Ridin' Preacher" (Sacred Records, 1958) (LP)
A founding member of the Sons Of The Pioneers, songwriter Tim Spencer had a spiritual conversion in the 1940s, and gave up secular singer for religious music... He stuck with RCA Records for a while, running their religious music department, then founded his own label, Manna Records, in the '50s. This album features Spencer and his family singing on a set of music, including the title track, a western-tinged narrative sung to the same melody as "The Battle Hymn Of The Republic."
Carl T. Sprague "Classic Cowboy Songs" (Bear Family, 1996)
Carl T. Sprague "Cowtrails, Longhorns And Tight Saddles -- Cowboy Songs: 1925-1929" (Bear Family, 2003)
Carl T. Sprague "Cowboy Classics" (Goldenlane, 2002)
Red Steagall - see artist discography
The Sweethearts In Carhartts "Sleigh Bells" (2009)
Three cowgals -- Yvonne Hollenbeck, Liz Masterson, and Jean Prescott -- and one album. Anyone know if they perform as a trio, or individually?
The Sweethearts In Carhartts "Sleigh Bells" (2010)
A holiday offering from this cowgal trio -- are those reindeer hooves up on the roof, or is it roundup time in heaven?
Hick Music Index