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Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys: Legends of Country Music

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Jazz zealots might be put off by the notion of a country ensemble overhauling the music, but my how these guys could swing-or so the country-and-western apologists would maintain, even if Bob Wills and his bands always seemed more inclined to flat out throb than swing a rhythm.

From the first few tracks of this stellar four disc collection, one gets a sense for just how radical the Wills band was, and how shocking it must have been in its original late ’30s context. Wills’ musical idols are apparent enough-Bessie Smith, the Mississippi Sheiks, the impossibly strange Emmett Miller-but in fusing the gutbucket rhythms of the blues with the far more ebullient bounce of swing, Wills hit on a music that would eventually grow into rock ‘n’ roll in Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios.

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