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Review

Texas Jim Lewis led a crack Western swing band that didn't play only Western swing -- they performed group harmony versions of Western songs akin to the Sons of the Pioneers, novelty songs with bells and whistles like a milder version of the Hoosier Hot Shots, hillbilly ballads, and polkas. Western Swing Nostalgia compiles 24 recordings from 1940s Standard transcription discs with liner notes by Jimmy Wakely's son, Johnny Wakely. Country Routes released an earlier collection of Lewis' transcriptions that focused on Western material, but Western Swing Nostalgia is more varied. Despite the title, there isn't a lot of Western swing in the Bob Wills tradition to be found. Novelty songs like "Since I Bought My T.V. Set" and a hillbilly version of Al Jolson's "Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go with Friday on Saturday Night" abound, along with a handful of Western songs and straight country tunes like "Blues Stay Away from Me." The band whips out the accordion for "Jennie Lind Polka" and a polka version of "Soldier's Joy," and enters crooner country on the slow songs "Blue Bonnets in Her Golden Hair" and "Broken Heart for Sale." The crowd-pleasing versatility of Lewis' band offered something for everyone in a live or radio setting, but might be too disparate for listeners hoping to find only Western swing. Open-minded enthusiasts of '40s country music, however, will be impressed with Lewis' range and ability as an all-around entertainer. As an added bonus, the disc has none of the intrusive surface noise or overzealously applied noise reduction heard on some of Cattle's other releases. ~ Greg Adams, Rovi

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