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Friday, July 27, 2007

Ol’ Buck, the Final Installment

posted by on July 27 at 11:37 AM

And finally, Young Buck: The Complete Pre-Capitol Recordings (Audium Entertainment, 2001).

pre-capitol.jpg

Before the Bakersfield sound, before Carnegie Hall, before Hee Haw, Owens was trying to find his voice, and in the mid-to-late ’50s he produced some excellent music, collected here in the 21-track anthology Young Buck: The Complete Pre-Capitol Recordings. The songs here are extremely stripped down compared to his recordings just a few years later; he hasn’t got that amped-up shuffle going on yet, so these songs are all in the vein of traditional country like Webb Pierce and Hank Williams, with a couple rockabilly numbers thrown in. And there’s no Don Rich. That’s not to say that the songs on this album are bad, they’re just different from what a fan of Owens might be used to. I personally cherish this album. I love it.

This was the only Owens album I had for years, so getting into his more freight-train-style ’60s stuff was difficult for me at first. Unfortunately, I just have a copy of the CD, so I don’t have the liner notes, nor can I find much information about the songs on the album. From Owens’s website I’ve learned that in 1956 he recorded for Pep “It Don’t Show on Me,” “Down on the Corner of Love,” “The House Down the Block,” and “Right After the Dance” in L.A., and “Sweethearts in Heaven,” “There Goes My Love,” “Hot Dog,” and “Rhythm and Booze” in Bakersfield. “Country Girl (Leavin’ Dirty Tracks)” was recorded for Chesterfield in 1957. But who’s playing with Owens on these songs? When and where were the other tracks recorded? I have no idea.

The best on the CD: “It Don’t Show on Me” tells of Owens hiding his hurt from his gal; “The House Down the Block” is his family home that he longs for but is too disgraced to enter; “Country Girl (Leavin’ Dirty Tracks)” has a pleasantly painful steel-guitar lick and great lyrics (“You should’ve know that country feet/were never meant for city streets”); “Honeysuckle” is a fantastic upbeat instrumental; “Blue Love” ends with the line “My life was only meant for misery” (yes!); in “Right After the Dance” Owens says he’s going to “make love to you right after the dance” (I think “make love” had a different meaning back then); “Sweethearts in Heaven” is good, but the premise is kind of creepy, as the title suggests; “Down on the Corner of Love” has a sweet, soaring chorus; “There Goes My Love”; “Please Don’t Take Her from Me”; “Why Don’t My Mommy Stay with My Daddy and Me?” These are all first-rate honky-tonk tunes, and all the songs on this CD are good, some better than others. The rockabilly stuff (“Hot Dog” and “Rhythm and Booze,” originally recorded under the name Corky Jones) isn’t as good as the honk tonk.

There’s lots of fiddle and some piano, and an alternate take of “Blue Love” features trumpet, à la Bob Wills, and studio chatter of Owens telling his “fellas” how the song’s gonna go. (“I want piano, but I don’t want too much piano. Run a little piano, and a little trumpet, and a little bit of everything, but don’t run too much of one thing. And make it short.”)

These songs show that Owens is already an excellent songwriter—musically and lyrically—writing and performing heartfelt, hurtin’ tunes.

And now I see, hot off the presses from cmt.com, that Owens pupil and collaborator Dwight Yoakam is going to release an Owens tribute album, Dwight Sings Buck, on October 23, with the magnificent “Close Up the Honky Tonks” as the first single. My sister’s going to be pumped.

Previously discussed: Together Again/My Heart Skips a Beat, I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail, The Instrumental Hits of Buck Owens and His Buckaroos, and Carnegie Hall Concert.

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