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Wylie and the Wild West Show

Ridin' the Hi-Line – 2000 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Wylie and the Wild West Show

Wylie Gustafson's traditionally contemporary approach to country swing music hasn't changed much in the decade and a half that he's been at it. Wylie and his roving band of sophisticated hayseeds imagine a world where T-Bone Burnett is influenced by Bob Wills and Bill Monroe and devotes his career to furthering that sound.

This is Wylie's homage to his Montana roots and life on the trail. With thematic threads like the winsome "Montana Moon," the energetic "He's a Cowboy," and Wylie's signature western warble on "Yodeling Cowboy" and "Yodeling My Blues Away" and, well, just about everything, the album is a gentle song cycle about saddling up and getting to work, a situation with which Wylie is well acquainted.

Like the Squirrel Nut Zippers' hot jazz and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy pop swing, Wylie has the rare ability to write western swing from a period state of mind and make it completely authentic. Equally impressive is the way that Wylie alternately contemporizes his work without pandering to trends (check out the subtle way he weaves in a hook from Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" into "Jitterbug Boogie"). Wylie will find favor among western swing purists as well as post-modernists.