Wylie and the Wild West
I sat at the light, waiting for Total Yodel! to start. As the disc slid into the player, I looked at the truck in front of my, a faded tan job with “Gustafson’s Farms” lettered in cracking red, and a couple of hand-painted cows smiling at me through the windshield. A big departure from the modern vinyl-lettered glossy white monsters that troop milk between factory and supermarket.
Coincidentally, Wylie Gustafson (weird, eh?) is a real homebrew cowboy in a landscape of speckless hats and carefully faded dungarees. Singing with a cowboy’s lonesome conviction, Wylie and his merry band of session musicians parade through eleven classic tracks, including a couple from Jimmy Rodgers and a handful from Wylie himself. The unearthly ululation of a good yodel is bound to evoke a reaction from just about anyone, whether it be snickers or amazement. I’m in the second group — how Wylie can pack so much joy or sadness into the pure high notes of his flawless yodeling is beyond explanation.
If you’re looking for a yodeling showcase, this ain’t it. While the vocal athletics are nothing short of spectacular, Wylie knows it’s not just about the yodel, and avoids using the technique gratuitously. The music is often simple cowboy fare, direct and uncomplicated, and while the yodeling is spectacular, it’s best to say that this is an album of nearly a dozen perfect Western tunes, highlighted by Wylie’s amazing voice. All music fans should take note… Rounder Records, 1 Camp St., Cambridge, MA 02140; http://www.rounder.com