The 2005 NCHA Western National Champion Wylie Galt Gustafason is a real live cowboy. Of course that doesn't qualify him to make a good album of cowboy songs any more than Jeff Gordon's NASCAR trophies endow him with the ability to make a great disc of race-car tunes. That said, at its best, this 14-song set by the veteran singer evokes all the folksy charm of a sing-around-the-campfire scene in an old Roy Rogers movie.
Producer John Carter Cash - the late Man in Black's son - has kept the instrumentation pleasingly spare and acoustic. Touches of melodic electric guitar lead and accordion add occasional swing to the standard western line-up. Perfectly showcased, singer-songwriter Gustafason seems completely at ease performing his wistful lope-along ditties ("Where Horses are Heroes"), mystic confessionals ("16 Hands") and rodeo wrangler tributes ("Jodell," "Rodeo to the Bone").
As a straight vocalist, Gustafason doesn't have a lot of range. However, the singing cowboy is the most sincerely expressive yodeler since the heyday of Eddy Arnold ("Eltopia Yodel"). Whether he is pining over the good ole days ("Out West") or joyously whooping it up ("Whip Out a Yodel," "Uber Yodel"), it is his yodeling that makes this cozy release worthwhile.