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Pop Culture News

CD review: The Sons of the Pioneers: Ultimate Collection (Hip-O Records)

There's country music and there's cowboy music. And, despite the size of his Stetson, Garth Brooks is no cowboy. Not like Roy Rogers and his pardners in the original Sons of the Pioneers.

Roy, songwriter Bob Nolan and the rest of the Pioneers sang of sagebrush, campfires and cool, cool water in group harmony, accompanied by lonesome fiddle, guitar and the occasional yodel. They didn't rock stadiums or entertain retirees at Branson. This was the real deal.

As real as Hollywood, anyway. Songs such as "I'm an Old Cowhand," "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds" and "Riders in the Sky" were inspired by, and helped reinforce in song, the image of the West found in matinees, pulp novels and old time radio shows. The Sons themselves appeared on screen and ultimately launched Rogers as a solo star.

The group became an institution and there have been many, many generations of Sons. Indeed, there's even a batch around today. And, yes, they play at Branson. But "The Ultimate Collection" is better than all that. Featuring 21 tunes spanning 1934 to 1954, it contains the original versions of the tunes that made the Sons famous. Featuring nice sound, despite a little surface noise on some of the older tracks (it adds to the campfire ambience), and informative notes by Colin Escott, this package neatly presents the group's history and most important recordings without the overkill of a box set. A very entertaining listen.

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