There have been more than one group known as the Riders Of The Purple Sage (not counting country-rock’s New Riders Of The Purple Sage). In 1936, Buck Page was a founding member of the original Riders, at age 13. In 1942, he joined the service during WWII, along with the rest of his band. By this time, Foy Willing had formed a separate Riders Of The Purple Sage, which also underwent personnel changes as members went off to war, and eventually disbanded in ’52, after which Buck reassembled his version of the outfit.
In the liner notes to Right Place To Start, Page acknowledges the contribution to western music that Willing’s group made, while clearing up any confusion. The CD is the first solo album in the 83-year-old’s 70-year career, but the singer is in fine form, and, if anything, sounds youthful. The bouncy two-step “You Pop My Corn (You Melt My Butter)” kicks things off with harmonized twin guitars in the great western swing tradition, with Cary Park soloing and Doug Livingston providing pedal steel.
Producer Jo DiBlasi supplies the guitar (along with bass, mandolin, and Dobro) on most of the record, with Larry Park chicken pickin’ on “Tractor Song” and DiBlasi fingerpicking an acoustic. Frank Morocco’s accordion adds a nice touch to Buck’s mellow original “Keeper Of My Heart,” a great showcase for Page’s undiminished vocal ability, and the title song, which demonstrates the relationship between swing and country music.
Everyone gets a chance to step up on the galloping “Ghost Riders In The Sky” – a standout, regardless of how many times the song’s been recorded – with DiBlasi turning on the afterburners.
From the production to the musicianship to the selection and range of material, this is an album befitting a legend – which is what Buck Page is.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Sep. ’06 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.