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
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
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
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.