Asleep at the wheel have kept Bob's music alive by recording two tribute albums with star-studded guest lists, both of which I've already reviewed. Patsy Cline, Ray Price and Willie Nelson are among many country singers who have had hits with covers of his songs. Furthermore, Waylon Jennings famously sang about Bob Wills, who may have still been king when Waylon recorded that song in the seventies, but I wonder how many young people these days - even in Texas - know or care whom Bob Wills is. This collection makes it very clear.
Like so many greats from whatever era, Bob's music had a variety of influences. In his case, there were the swing band that dominated the pop charts of the thirties and the primitive country music, just escaping from its folk roots. The fusion of these two styles might have been called country swing but was actually called western swing and that's the name that stuck.
This collection covers the period 1935 to 1950, although it begins with a couple of Milton Brown tracks from 1932, when Bob was a member of Milton's band. It took a while for Bob to really hit his stride, but he wrote several classic songs. Here, you can find his original versions of San Antonio Rose, Stay a little longer, Cotton eyed Joe (an unlikely number one UK hit for Swedish disco group Rednex), Sugar moon, Bubbles in my beer, Deep water, Don't be ashamed of your age (covered as a duet by Ernest Tubb and Red Foley) and Faded love (which Patsy Cline made her own - most people think Patsy's version is the original - of course, it isn't).
As ever with Proper boxed sets, the sound quality is brilliant and the liner notes extensive. If you only buy one Bob Wills collection, buy this one.