Monday, December 16, 2013

Genre research project 2/1357: Cowboy

Mary Robbins - Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs

Cowboy Music was originally handed down from the genuine Old West articles, its repertoire consisting of songs sung on the open range to pass the time on cattle drives. This tradition continued to inform country & western music long after its attendant lifestyle had all but disappeared, since romanticized cowboy mythology still held a fascination for many. That fascination resulted in the production of innumerable Western and cowboy films, and with those films came a revival of interest in cowboy music. Actually, it wasn't so much a revival as a hunger for more mythology -- singer/actors like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry relied far more on new compositions which evoked similar themes of cowboy life. The performances and production of cowboy songs depend largely on the context -- while movie songs were usually recorded with modern soundtrack-style orchestras, old-time groups like the Sons of the Pioneers relied on traditional, unadorned acoustic instruments. While it's the spirit of cowboy music, rather than specific standard songs, that has generally survived in country music, some artists have sought to preserve the tradition and educate their audiences about authentic cowboy songs; Michael Martin Murphey became a notable figure in these efforts during the '90s.


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