Pulling off a successful musical parody is tough. Keeping the parody going for over 25 years is nearly impossible, but Riders In The Sky have done just that. Their longevity stems from their love of what they parody – country western music as epitomized by Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, The Sons Of The Pioneers, Tex Ritter, and a host of other cowboy B-movie heroes. When Riders in the Sky sing “I want to drink my java from an old tin can, while the moon is riding high… ” you believe them.
If you’ve never heard the Riders, you’re in for a surprise. Silver Jubilee serves as the ultimate “greatest hits” anthology of their extensive back catalog. Along with cowboy classics such as “Cool Water,” “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” “La Malaguena,” “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” “Ringo,” “Blue Mountain Skies,” “Rawhide,” and “Texas Plains,” you’ll hear some of their best comedy routines, such as “Sidekick Heaven,” “Phantom of the Chuckwagon,” and “Salting of the Slug.”
Every time I listen to the Riders, I’m struck by not only their good humor, but also by their musical precision. Their spot-on three- and four-part vocal harmonies, combined with authentic yet innovative arrangements topped off by seriously hot instrumental solos completely floor me. These guys are just too good.
As if their music wasn’t enough, the Riders of the Sky have developed a unique stage presence. Each member – Joey the Cowpolka King, Ranger Doug, Woody Paul, and Too Slim – has a unique personality. It’s not just fancy cowboy drag, but their complete embrace of the archetypes and clichés that completes their multidimensional theatrical presentation.
I don’t care how cool, how outré, how bleeding-edge your musical tastes may be, if you don’t like Riders in the Sky you’re a square. Not “getting” the Rider’s music means you don’t understand what makes America’s musical heritage special.
You need this CD if only for those days when a little black cloud over your head threatens to expand and fill your horizons. Even a single dose of this two-disc CD will shoo away your blues like a tumbleweed on a windy day.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Feb. ’04 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.