Is there a more life-affirming sound than the music of Bob Wills And The Texas Playboys? The music itself is jaunty enough, but the sound of fiddler Wills shouting high-pitched encouragement from the sidelines is what makes it so loveable. Even when leading his band through "Trouble In Mind," with a lyric that includes, "I'm gonna lay my head on some lonesome railway line," Wills sounds unfailingly cheery when he interjects, "Rave on, brother. I'm right with you now!" One of the pioneers of Western Swing music—that loping hybrid of country, blues, and jazz that sprung up on the plains of Texas and Oklahoma in the '30s and '40s—and undoubtedly the genre's biggest star, Wills gets the box-set treatment with the new, four-disc Legends Of Country Music: Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys (Sony/BMG), a comprehensive look at Wills' career from his early days through the lean years up to the 1973 sessions for For The Last Time, during which Wills suffered a stroke that ended his career… A

If soul music is gospel's secular prodigal child, then funk must be the sexually promiscuous black sheep that no one else in the family talks about. But the 18 tracks on the Numero Group's latest crate-digging compilation, Good God!: A Gospel Funk Hymnal proves that it's possible to sing about Jesus and bring the funk. Recorded between 1968 and 1980 almost exclusively in the Midwest, the album finds James Brown and Stevie Wonder influences creeping into traditional spirituals, to sometimes awkward, sometimes awesome effect. Some of the tracks are clearly cross-generational efforts, bringing old-fashioned choir sounds together with a funky drum, and they all burn with an inspiration that sounds simultaneously divine and suspiciously earthly… A-

In 1971, Kenny Smith also tried to unite funk with the man upstairs, recording a song that never became a hit in the proper sense, but that burned up the British Northern Soul scene. "Lord, What's Happened" leads off One More Day (Shake It), a career-spanning collection of the Cincinnati soul man's work for a handful of labels between 1964 and 1975. More a talented journeyman than an innovator, Smith nevertheless comes off as an overlooked talent on a collection worth seeking out for more than its most famous track. B

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