There is something pleasantly romantic about Johnny Bond
's cowboy songs, perhaps because they capture the saga of the once untamed West. Who wouldn't feel a certain longing in the wake of starry nights, tumbling tumbleweeds, and riding one's horse on the open range? A number of classic songs fill this collection, including "Red River Valley," "Boots and Saddles," and "Mexicali Rose." Bond
is joined by a few friends -- the Red River Valley Boys -- who sing harmony and offer tasteful support. The arrangements are spare, featuring little more than bass, accordion, and a guitar on most cuts. The group is clearly comfortable performing together and maintain the same intimacy as the Sons of the Pioneers
on songs like "Saddle Serenade." Bond
has written a number of these songs, including the memorable "Ten Years" and the instrumental "Ridin' Down to Santa Fe." There is a haunting version of "Empty Saddles," sort of an early, less dark version of "(Ghost Riders) in the Sky." Bond
is perfectly capable of generating a cowboy version of honky tonk flavored songs like "Headin' Down the Wrong Highway," or a heartfelt rendition of pop ballads like "Have I Stayed Away Too Long." The sound quality of these transcriptions from 1944-1945 is very good, and the number of selections -- 31 -- is generous. This disc will sit comfortably beside the recordings of other singing cowboys like Gene Autry
and Roy Rogers
. Bloodshot has put together a fine collection that will be a real treat to lovers of swinging cowboy music.