Fourteen years after starting his cattle ranch in Texas, Tom Dunston is finally ready to drive his 10,000 head of cattle to market.
John Wayne – showing off a darker side to his screen persona than we'd previously seen – portrays Thomas Dunson, a frontiersman who, with his longtime partner Nadine Groot (Walter Brennan), abandons a westbound wagon train in 1851 to make his future as a rancher in Texas. Doing so forces him to abandon Fen (Colleen Gray), his fiancee – and when she is killed in an Indian raid a short time later, it taints any good that Dunson might find in the future he carves out for himself, destroying any joy he might derive from life. The sole survivor of the raid is Matthew Garth (Mickey Kuhn), a young orphan who is unusually handy with a gun for one his age – and already knows how to channel his grief and horror at what he's seen, as much as Dunson does. Dunson informally adopts Matt as his son, and over the next 14 years he builds up one of the largest ranches in the entire state of Texas. And all of it is worth nothing, a result of the economic ruin wrought on the state in the aftermath of the Civil War.
Excellent small group work from Sadao Watanabe – easily one of the best Japanese reed players of the past 50 years – still sounding great here on a recent acoustic session! Watanabe plays alto throughout – a definite preferred horn of late – and stretches out in these expressive solos in the company of Gerald Clayton on piano, Ben Williams on bass, and Jonathan Blake on drums – a combo who step out with lots of warm sympathy on a set of tracks that's all original material by Watanabe! Sadao's tunes have a feel that's quite poetic, yet still also swinging too – a balance carried out in a wonderfully subtle way on tunes that include "I Miss You When I Think Of You", "Gemmation", "Vamos Juntos", "Simpatico", and "Warm Days Ahead".
Sonny Terry started playing harp in his teens, as a blind street musician in North Carolina. After a stint with a medicine show, he hooked p with the popular ragtime singer/guitarist, Blind Boy Fuller. When he was 23 he made his recording debut, backing up Fuller. Barely a year later in 1938, he was wowing New York audiences at Carnegie Hall, appearing solo as part of John Hammond's Spirituals to Swing concert. After Fuller's death in 1940, Terry teamed with Brownie McGhee and the two began a long lived musical partnership.
Tom Dunson builds a cattle empire with his adopted son Matthew Garth. Together they begin a massive cattle drive north from Texas to the Missouri railhead. But on the way, new information and Dunson's tyrannical ways cause Matthew to take the herd away from Dunson and head to a new railhead in Kansas. Dunson, swearing vengeance, pursues.