Ruby Blevins, aka Patsy Montana (1908-1996) was one of greatest -- and first -- female country music stars, a "Western" artist whose signature song, "I Want To Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart," was the first single by a female country artist to sell over a million copies. She started her professional career in 1933, backed by the Prairie Ramblers, which would be her band for many years to come. Montana performed with many of the biggest stars of the 1930s and '40s, but her own recordings have a special magic that finds new fans year after year after year... Here's a quick looks at her work...
Patsy Montana "The Best Of Patsy Montana" (Sony/Collector's Choice, 2001)
Was there ever another country performer as adorable as Patsy Montana? I doubt it. Montana was the greatest of the "cowgirl" singers, and now at last we get a chance to really check out Montana at her peak form -- perkily yodelling away on these delightfully antiquated, sentimental "western" tunes. This is a long-overdue American edition collecting her best work from the 1930s and '40s -- two dozen old tracks from Vocalion and several smaller labels that have been out of print for decades, available only on teeny specialty labels, and in dribs and drabs on various compilation albums. The songs are corny, but Montana's delivery is not, especially later on as her band put more and more swing into their sound -- and you can hear that progression as it actually happened, since these songs are presented in straight chronological order. A particular highlight is a tune Montana penned herself, "Cowboy Rhythm," which demonstrates how strange musical fads such as opera and jazz can't hold a candle to a coyote's howl and a lonesome guitar as the moon starts to rise... Fans of swing-string revivalists such as The Hot Club of Cowtown are strongly urged not to let this one slip by -- records this fun don't come along that often.
Patsy Montana "Cowboy's Sweetheart" (King/Highland, 1996)
This is much later material, (from the 1960s perhaps?) with an elderly Montana fronting a subdued, Buck Owens-y country band... Definitely not on a par with her classic tracks from the 1930s, although she still whoops up a storm on "He Taught Me How To Yodel" and the recitation tune, "Daddy's Got A Job Up In Heaven" is pretty deliciously maudlin. Lackluster in comparison to her classic work, but still worth checking out.
Patsy Montana "The Original Cowboy's Sweetheart" (ASV Living Era, 2005)
Patsy Montana "I'm Going West To Texas" (BACM, 2005)
Patsy Montana "Rose Of Oklahoma" (Binge Discs, 2008)
Delicious Depression-era "western" tunes from singing cowgirl Patsy Montana, cheerfully evoking the open skies and rolling range and dreaming of a cowgirl's wedding. Montana sings most of the tunes on this generously programmed disc with her regular band, the Prairie Ramblers, but also with outfits such as the Light Crust Doughboys and the venerable Sons Of The Pioneers. It's great, goofy, sentimental cornball country, with shout-outs to Oklahoma, Texas, Kentucky and just about every other rural area you can imagine. Montana fans will be thrilled to track this disc down, as well as any of the other CDs on this hard-to-find import label. (Available through the Binge Disc website)
Patsy Montana "Cowgirl's Best" (Goldenlane, 2009)
Patsy Montana "The Cowboy's Sweetheart" (Flying Fish, 1997)
A nice album, originally from 1988 and posthumously released after Montana's passing in 1996. This has sympathetic backing by modern folkies Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer and others... Naturally, this doesn't have the sparkle of Montana's classic old stuff, which was recorded half a century earlier, but it's still pretty impressive, especially considering how old she was and how she'd kept performing all those years. The album's highlights include "Sixteen Pounds," a feminist parody of "Sixteen Tons," with new lyrics written by Montana herself ("You gain sixteen pounds, and whaddya get...?") and an updated version of "Cowboy's Sweetheart," wherein Patsy talks about being a yodelling grandmother, out on the road in her older years. It's worth checking out.
"Patsy Montana: The Cowboy's Sweetheart"
(McFarland & Company, 2002)
Written by Patsy Montana & Jane Frost
Hick Music Index