Buck Owens: Buck 'Em!: The Music of Buck Owens, 1967-1975: Volume 2
This compilation of Buck Owens's late-'60s/early-'70s output focuses on live cuts, rarities, and alternate takes.
A must-own compilation for any serious Buck Owens fan.
Buck Owens was one of the most important country musicians of the 20th century, a keystone of the Bakersfield sound, a style of country of music that skewed the lush orchestration of "countrypolitan" for a return to the simple pleasures of the honkytonk. The Bakersfield sound bore the stylistic imprint of rock 'n' roll: electric instrumentation and a backbeat. Country music strongly influenced early rock'n' roll, particularly in the music of Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. Bill Haley, for example, began his music career playing western swing, a genre of country music with a strong jazz and blues influence.
It’s an influence that went both ways. The Beatles were a rockabilly band at heart and covered Buck Owens’ “Act Naturally” on Help!, and the Byrds covered “Buckaroo". Then there was the roots revival that happened late in the 1960s with groups like Creedence Clearwater Revival, late-'60s Byrds, the Grateful Dead, and of course Gram Parsons. Keeping all that in mind, it’s no wonder Buck Owens enjoyed crossover success in the '60s. Hosting Hee-Haw certainly helped keep him in the public eye as did the stylistic excursions he and the Buckaroos went on in this period. And his sartorial choices made a strong impact. Who could forget Buck and his glittering, rhinestone covered Nudie Cohn suits? Certainly not Gram Parsons.
The music contained on this compilation features some deep cuts, alternate takes, and the occasional oddity, an example of the latter being “(It’s A) Monster’s Holiday", which answers the question probably never posed before or since: “What would a country Halloween song sound like?” The answer is, "awesome". You have the normal Buckaroos accoutrements: twin Telecasters, a dash of pedal steel, and the infectious harmonies of Buck Owens and Don Rich.
Another treat is “Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass?”, a country song featuring fuzz guitar, which hit number one on the country charts in 1969. It’s a track that really showcases the versatility of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. The live cover of “Johnny B. Goode” is another cut that demonstrates this, one that maintains the vigor and infectious joy of the original in a country music setting. Owens's duet with soul singer Bettye Swan on Merle Haggard’s “Today I Started Loving You Again” is another standout track, one that had gone unreleased until this set.
This a must-have for anyone with the slightest interest in this era of country music. It’s a perfect showcase of what Gram Parson’s called "cosmic American music": a blend of country, folk, blues, soul, and rock. In an era filled with acrimonious partisanship, it’s nice to find a more catholic approach to life, at least where the matter of music concerned. Country music has a reputation of conservatism, but this set is a reminder that there some artists are willing to work across genre lines, try new things, and stretch themselves creatively. Buck Owens is a national treasure, and this set is a good reminder why.