As any buckaroo or buckarette might reckon, " 'Weeds and Water," the title of the new album by Riders in the Sky, is shorthand for the prairie classics "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and "Cool Water." Time was when a cowpoke had to own a television set in order to purchase this album; it originally was recorded with the intent of giving Slim Whitman and Boxcar Willie a run for the late-night mail-order bonanza. Safe to say, " 'Weeds and Water" finished a disappointing third, but not to worry. The record has been remixed and reissued as a commercial release, and if its budget-album origins are still unmistakable at times, so are its many merits.
Besides the affectionately sung and authentically rendered title tunes and a likable remake of "That's How the Yodel Was Born," the album herds the Riders onto a dusty but ultimately happy trail mix of cowboy originals and old favorites, including "Pecos Bill," "La Cucaracha" and "Streets of Laredo." As on previous Rider releases, the trio's cool, unperturbed harmonies are delivered with exquisite care. Ranger Doug's yodeling is as endearing as ever, and the Western swing pulse that underlines "West Texas Cowboy" is sure to set boots tapping.
In fact, the album's only serious drawback is its scant playing time. At just shy of half an hour, the Riders are in and out of the saddle before you know it. RIDERS IN THE SKY -- " 'Weeds and Water" (Rounder 1038). Appearing Saturday at 8 at McLean Community Center.