Everyone who's ever explored Western swing knows that Bob Wills' music was revolutionary, but any fan who hasn't listened to the music on disc one of this collection probably doesn't realize how revolutionary it really was. Most modern retrospectives concentrate on music that Wills made after his signature sound was firmly established, but the earliest (and seldom heard) sides here are fascinating in that they reveal the specific foundations for Wills' great synthesis. Old-timey fiddle tunes, primitive jazz, blues, gospel -- the breadth of his repertoire was staggering, and his bands not only played those myriad disparate genres, but mastered them utterly. There are dozens of seldom-heard gems throughout this four-disc set, but none more exciting than those found early on: "Get With It," with Leon McAuliffe
's jazzy, astonishingly dissonant guitar solo that predates Scotty Moore
's rockabilly licks by nearly 20 years, Tommy Duncan
's brilliant, jazzy yodeling on "I Ain't Got Nobody," the beautiful gospel ballad "There's No Disappointment in Heaven," "Basin Street Blues," and on and on. The accompanying 50-page booklet contains a nice historical essay and rare photographs, but may be problematic to researchers in that its session notes are sometimes inaccurate. In terms of the music, however, nothing but good words can be said. Many of these songs have probably never been heard by CD-era fans, being previously available only on Bear Family's massive box set, and every single one of Wills' hits are included, as well as many of the classic Tiffany Transcriptions
. And all for under $25.