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Tex Williams

I Got Texas In My Soul. Centenary Tribute – His 29 Finest, 1944-54

RETROSPECTIVE RTR 4309 [79:15]

 

 

1 I Got Texas in My Soul

2 Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette!

3 Shame on You

4 I've Taken All I'm Gonna Take from You

5 A Pair of Broken Hearts

6 You Can't Break My Heart

7 Detour

8 Crazy 'Cause I Love You

9 Rose of the Alamo

10 The California Polka

11 Foolish Tears

12 The Leaf of Love

13 Banjo Polka

14 Talking Boogie

15 Miss Molly

16 That's What I Like About the West

17 Don't Telephone, Don't Telegraph, Tell a Woman

18 Never Trust a Woman

19 Artistry in Western Swing

20 Suspicion

21 Just a Pair of Blue Eyes

22 Who? Me?

23 There's a Bluebirde on Your Windowsill

24 Ham 'N' Eggs

25 Birmingham Bounce

26 Wild Card

27 Rancho Boogie

28 Life Gets Teejus, Don't It?

29 He'll Have to Go

Tex Williams and his Western Caravan, his String Band, Spade Cooley and his Orchestra

Recorded 1944-54

 

Western Swing and Tex Williams go together about as well as any such combination could. Illinois born in 1917 the bass-baritone gravitated to California where he teamed up with Spade Cooley who, as bandleader was – to his chagrin – eclipsed by the personable singer. Thereafter Williams released a series of popular numbers, though he criss-crossed the studios, sometimes at his whim. Though he remained a popular artist in the later 50s and beyond his heyday was behind him. He died in October 1985.

The album’s title track sums up his 1946 band very well: playing a song co composed by Ernest Tubb and Zeb Turner, his Western Caravan was an outfit that sported a plethora of instrumentalists, including accordion, harp, and at least four fiddles led by the unbelievably named Cactus Soldi (in fact he was Andrew ‘Cactus’ Soldi). Williams’ laid-back bass-baritone exuded easy confidence on these and other tracks and he had the good taste to encourage his sidemen to take strong solos. For example, there’s a tight, swinging trumpet solo on another of his big hits, the now bizarre seeming injunction to Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette! (blame co-composer Merle Travis as well as Williams – the latter died of lung cancer). There’s a parlando Boy Named Sue feel to this 1947 No.1 Country Chart hit.I've Taken All I'm Gonna Take from You and A Pair of Broken Hearts, products of sessions with Spade Cooley’s band, are the two very different sides of the same coin: the former bullish, the latter resigned. There’s some very pretty piano on this latter number from Eddie Bennett.

Broken love pragmatism is an endearing trope of Country, whether Western Swing or its Nashville cousin, as is the whole crazy-in-love shebang. But there is plenty of instrumental variety to be heard throughout these tracks – the undulating accordion of Pedro DePaul in The California Polka for instance – or Cactus Soldi (him again) and DePaul’s Banjo Polka. These items remind the listener that over in Texas Polkas were being played by émigré Czechs and their new American families (take a listen to Arhoolie’s Texas-Czech Bands 1929-59 on CD7026 for a brilliantly compiled example).

Williams touches on boogie-lite in Talking Boogie and jolly green-eyed-monster lyrics in Suspicion with a steel guitar solo that alerts one to the fact that Les Paul was co-composer. Stan Kenton’s Artistry in Western Swing is a droll instrumental. Williams is at his best telling avuncular narratives in his suave bass-baritone, inhabiting the variety and vitality of the best in the Western Swing genre. Despite what the album title says with regard to the time period covered (Retrospective covers itself by calling this a ‘bonus’ track, whatever that may mean in the context), we end things with his 1960 cover of He’ll Have To Go – droll, but perhaps a little late in the day, with anonymous orchestra and female chorus.

The transfers are first class and Brian Golbey’s sleeve notes set the scene, biographically and musically, very well. This finely selected 29-track programme gets a thumbs-up from me.

Jonathan Woolf

 


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