While his first Rounder release covered ground from honky tonk to Western swing to cowboy, Wylie Gustafson stays firmly on the dusty trail on his inviting, uplifting follow-up. Although the album is bookended by two upbeat Wylie originals, most of the record owns a relaxed, lonesome-prairie mood. His exhilarating yodels---which move from baritone to falsetto in effortless fashion---are tastefully supported by exquisite fills from guitarist Mark Thornton and steel player Carco Clave. Along the way he visits three Jimmie Rodgers tunes (including the lesser-known "When the Cactus Is in Bloom") along with songs associated with the Sons of the Pioneers and Elton Britt, a relatively forgotten Rodgers disciple. Total Yodel!
falls somewhere between Don Walser's majesty and Riders in the Sky's vivacity. Most importantly, Wylie understands the emotional range of the yodel; his original "Big Sky Lullaby" provides ample proof, containing some of the most expressive yodeling committed to record. --Marc Greilsamer