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Johnny Bush

Johnny Bush Sings Bob Wills – 2000 (Texas Music Group)

Reviewed by Bill Silvers

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CDs by Johnny Bush

Johnny Bush is a hero of Texas honky-tonk, dance-hall music. Early in his career, he worked with Willie Nelson (for whom he wrote "Whiskey River") and was one of Ray Price's Cherokee Cowboys. As a solo artist in the late '60's, Bush scored a few hits, thrilling listeners with his affecting, three-octave singing voice and earning the nickname "The Country Caruso." Tragedy struck in the early '70's when he lost his voice to a rare neurological condition that affected his vocal cords, though after working with a vocal coach he eventually regained about 75 percent of his vocal capacity.

Bush owns the masters of his recordings and has self-released many of them. His "new" "Bob Wills" release consists of tunes originally recorded in 1990 at Nelson's Pedernales studio. The record was in the final mixing stages when the IRS seized it, along with Nelson's other assets, to settle a massive tax debt. The classic Wills sound of the post-war era is modified a bit by adding a horn section which carries many of the instrumental breaks along with the expected guitar, pedal steel and fiddle. The record succeeds best when Bush's wonderful voice takes the lead with his band playing the breaks. The added horn parts, though competently arranged and performed, are at times out of place and swing-impaired.