Boot Heel Drag: The MGM Years

by: Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys

Wills' peak is usually reckoned as the late '30s to the mid-'40s. His slightly later recordings, dating from the time his popularity began to slip, have received comparatively little attention. However, you really can't detect much of a drop in quality, on record anyway, on this double-CD compilation of 50 tracks he did for MGM from 1947-1954. This was not a total dry spell for him hit-wise, and all five of his Top Ten country charters (all from 1948-1950) during that span are here: "Ida Red Likes the Boogie," "Thorn in My Heart," "Keeper of My Heart," "Bubbles in My Beer," and "Faded Love." True, it was not a time of great stability for the Texas Playboys. No less than nine different lineups are heard on the record, and their most famous vocalist, Tommy Duncan, left in 1948 (and appears on only about a third of the songs on this compilation). Still, overall they still ground out top-notch western swing on disc, the commendably diverse repertoire drawing on blues, boogie, jazz, pop, and novelty humor. The material and production get a little slicker than his earlier recordings occasionally, but there's plenty of exuberant vocal and instrumental interplay. ~ Richie Unterberger

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