I am a big fan and a kind of minor expert on Bob Wills Music. Milton Brown's Brownies were the first and one of the greatest Western Swing Bands of all time. Musically if you compare the work that Brown and his band did with the first string of Wills recordings which were contemporary with the last of Brown's records, the Brownies were better.
Bob Wills and Milton Brown were extremely close friends once they met in Fort Worth around 1929. They played and recorded together in one band with a variety of names until that band got the name Light Crust Doughboys because they were directly employed by The Burriss flour mill. In 1932, Milton and his brother Durwood left the Light Crust Doughboys because Burris Mills manager W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel (who like the character of the same name in "O Brother" became governor of Texas, not Mississippi) did not allow members of the Doughboys to do side gigs. The Browns need the side gigs to help support older relatives, whereas Wills couldn't leave O'Daniel because he had gotten a number of relatives working in the flour mill who would have been fired if he had left O'Daniel.
Wills and Milton Brown remained close friends after Brown set up his own group. Unlike the Doughboys, the new band features a pianist, a stride and jazz pianist named Papa Calhoun. It also featured a great standup bass player who played jazz style, rather than the bowed bass style then played by string band bassists. The twin fiddle style that became standard in Western Swing was born with the musical brownies. Often overlooked by those who don't know Brown, was the great never equalled and completely original steel guitar work of Bobby Dunne.
The Brownies were a tighter band musically than the Playboys were at least until the late 30s when when the efforts of ace musician and arranger guitarist Eldon Shamblin, and Wills' ability to hire better musicians with more money and noteriety. The singing on these records by Brown sometimes harmonized by band members is extraordinary.
To be sure, Brown's style is more jazz-oriented than Wills band, smoother, and Brown's singing is closer to Black jazz, than the crooning that the great Tommy Duncan had with Wills. Brown is also very closely influenced by Hokum Jazz players like the Washboard Rhythm Kings, several of whose tunes Brown covered very closely.
However, you can see a lot of similarity in both bands, usually in material that Brown recorded earlier than Wills that both groups did that show rather common interests. You had the sense that these were two close pals who listened to records together and shared recordings of people that they liked together.
Two particular influences both groups had were the jazz singers and last of the minstrel stars Emment Miller whose version of Right or Wrong the Brownies recorded first, as well as in a number of songs done learned from the Mississippi Sheiks such as Corrina, Corrina and Sitting on Top of the World.
In these cases, while anyone with ears should love the versions Wills cut of those songs, the Brownies versions of the songs were more lively, swinging, and seem more original, whereas Will's versions especially of Sitting on Top of the World seem quite close to what the Sheiks did not just in his initial recording in the 1930s but on up to his last recording for Liberty in 1960s (with Vicki Carr singing backup and viola player from the Lawrence Welch band in the fiddle section!).
Brown is a lot of fun in a smoother, more sophisticated way than the early Wills.
One reason this collection is so cheap is that it is essentially a pirated version done from individual records, not masters, and those in contact with the heirs of Milton Brown have announced they plan to sue them over this.
A much better edition authorized by Brown's family and with better pictures, recordings from masters, and many other goodies with the full Brownies discography is available in 5-CD Box Set Milton Brown set on TEXAS ROSE RECORDS. Buy that.