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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Riders In the Sky celebrates their venerable 'Cowboy Way' with 40th anniversary album

Riders In the Sky

Riders In the Sky--"40 Years the Cowboy Way"

Celebrating its 40th year, cowboy country music group Riders In the Sky is releasing its 41st album on April 13.

The 15-track 40 Years The Cowboy Way is on the band’s own Riders Radio Records label, and after focusing on concept albums like their most recent Riders In the Sky Salute Roy Rogers: King of the Cowboys (2015) and Home On the Range (2013, with Wilford Brimley), the historic quartet returns to its more traditional Riders album format this time around.

“It seems like we’ve only been doing those conceptual albums, so we’ve been wishing for a long time to do a plain old Riders album mix of old and new and undiscovered treasures,” says “Ranger” Doug Green, the group’s guitarist, vocalist, yodeler and nominal frontman (the other Riders are Fred “Too Slim” LaBour, upright “bunkhouse” bassist, vocalist and face-slap player; Woody “King of the Counry Fiddlers” Paul, who also sings and does dazzling rope tricks; and accordionist Joey “The CowPolka King” Miskulin).

“Side Meat [LaBour’s trail cook character] sings two songs on the album--which is always a big deal,” continues Green. ”I sing a few, including one I co-wrote with Hoot Hester, ‘Old New Mexico,’ that’s right in the cowboy music tradition.”

The late Hester was a longtime fiddler in the Grand Ole Opy band, as well as a founding member of Nashville’s western swing band The Time Jumpers--of which Green also is a founding member. Riders In the Sky, of course, is a longtime Opry act in its own right.

Green mentions the inclusion of “I’ve Cooked Everything” Side Meat’s wonderful parody of the much-covered country hit “I’ve Been Everywhere,” and also cites “Mollie Darling,” an old song he traces to the 1870s.

“Oddly enough, Eddy Arnold recorded it back in the 1940s, and Rex Allen sang it in a movie. It’s a beautiful old song, and cowboys have been singing it on the range since about the time they were heading west and bringing new songs with them.”

Also noteworthy are Marty Robbins’ country classic “Big Iron,” and “Press Along to the Big Corral,” previously recorded by the Sons of the Pioneers and Gene Autry and “another cowboy classic we finally got around to record.”

Now with some 7,234 performances under their collective belt since forming 40 years ago last Nov. 11, Riders In the Sky are bound to have a few more in the books by the time they make a rare New York appearance at City Winery on March 19--for which they’ll have on hand the new album along with a new tour book and poster.

“We’ll be bringing back songs spanning the entire spectrum of our career,” says Green, proclaiming that “it’s exciting to get out and sing at our age.”

“There are four stages of your career,” he adds. “First, you’re the hot young things. Then you get forgotten in your middle years, and then you become living legends. Last, it’s ‘See them while you can!’”

Riders In the Sky perform "Press Along to the Big Corral"



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