This five-CD set is the only extant collection by this legendary Western swing outfit. At 140 dollar list, it's a hefty investment, but it's such solid music that it's difficult not to justify on the basis of quality. Disc one, covering sessions from 1937, is justified by the presence of the greatest version ever of "Milk Cow Blues," with a vocal by Leo Herbert Raley that will curl every hair you have; an awesome Western swing version of "You Got to Hi De Hi"; the bluesy, fiddle-driven "Can't Nobody Truck Like Me"; the smooth yet touching "Under the Silvery Moon"; and a trio of distinctive alternate takes of three of the best numbers here, only uncovered in 1997. Disc two has even more of a freewheeling feel to it, and some of the best rags and dances ever cut by anybody. By the late 1939 sessions that open disc three, the group isn't as much of a blues band, no less lively but playing more straight dance material. Disc four moves into the 1940s, and topicality is reflected by the presence of the rollicking "Draft Board Blues"; the disc also encompasses the extended periods of recording inactivity by the group, including a gap from 1941 and 1944, and then, again, until 1947. By this time, Bruner
and his band were losing the edge that had made their earlier music such a delightfully intense listening experience. Their playing was as good as (and more polished than) ever, but as they moved into the late '40s and the dawn of the 1950s -- covered on disc five -- their overall sound lacked sharpness, although it was still eminently listenable. The notes and discography are both exceptionally detailed.