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Rex Allen

The Last of the Great Singing Cowboys – 1999 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Rex Allen

To many, the singing cowboy is nothing more than a few fondly remembered black & white Saturday morning images. But this recording provide evidence that a remnant of the tradition still remains.

Still, the recent deaths of both Roy Rogers and Gene Autry mark the singing cowboy as an endangered specie.

Called The Arizona Cowboy, Rex Allen is truly the last of a breed. His recording here from the WLS Barn Dance radio show out of Chicago 1946-49 finds him in prime form. The liner notes reveal that the band was sometimes asked to learn their songs right on the spot and record them after only a few run-throughs. Give the man and his band some props for that.

Song themes fit nicely into traditional Western lore, but the playing on many of these recordings ("Mexicali Rose") skips to a jazzy Western swing beat. Allen's voice sounds strong and confident, just like a cowboy hero, but it's an instrument flexible enough to break into a yodel, when the occasion calls for it.