Album Review: Buck Owens — Bound for Bakersfield: The Complete Pre-Capitol Collection (1953-1956)

Juli Thanki | October 17th, 2011

buckowensboundforbakersfieldBefore Buck Owens became synonymous with country’s Bakersfield Sound thanks to his chart-topping hits like “Act Naturally” and “My Heart Skips a Beat” (recorded early in his tenure with Capitol Records, which signed him in 1957) he recorded a number of songs in his 20s for small (and long gone) labels in Hollywood and Pico Rivera, California. These tracks, recorded on Pep, Chesterfield, and La Brea Records, have finally been released as a collection called, appropriately Bound for Bakersfield: The Complete Pre-Capitol Collection.

Owens sounds as though he’s drawing on Webb Pierce, who ruled the radio and charts in the ‘50s, with the reedy vocals paired with crying pedal steel, fiddle, and tinkling piano on songs like “Blue Love” and “It Don’t Show on Me,” and “There Goes My Love” sounds like a lost Everly Brothers tune. Meanwhile, on “Rhythm and Booze” and “Hot Dog”—recorded under the pseudonym “Corky Jones” because “rock [was] a touchy subject among Bakersfield’s hardcore country stalwarts,” writes Rich Kienzle in the liner notes—he flirts with rockabilly, and tinges of Fats Domino can be found on the piano-driven “I’m Gonna Blow.” But tinges of Owens’ own burgeoning style can be heard on the upbeat track “Right After the Dance” and the twangy instrumental “Honeysuckle.”

There are alternate takes of nearly every song on this collection, which is fantastic for music nerds and Owens completists (you’re probably one and/or the other if this album’s in your collection). Even with the alternates, the 25 song collection comes in at under 50 minutes. Unfortunately, there is little information known about the last third of the track listing, (i.e. the songs not recorded for Pep Records): the liner notes list possible musicians who may have played with Owens and the possible dates the songs may have been recorded at a particular studio, but there are no concrete facts. However, this dearth of information doesn’t take away the pleasure of listening to one of country music’s most important figures as he finds his voice.

4.5 Stars

  1. Barry Mazor
    October 17, 2011 at 9:00 am

    It’s not exactly “finally” on this material being out. All but three tracks (additional alts.) were issued on the CD “Young Buck” from Audium/Country Hall of Fame Classics in 2001 (no longer in print)–and it’s all been available on the earliest Buck Bear Family box, which has that info not included here, of course. It’s fair to say that this is the most early Owens available on a single disc now, and for some time–and that it’s pretty dang good, all things, as Juli’s saying here, considered!

  2. Juli Thanki
    October 17, 2011 at 9:29 am

    A couple years ago there was an album on CD Baby (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/buckowens) that I got, but that only had 9 of these songs on it. The audio quality on this album is better. But Barry, if you wanted to buy me the Bear Family box set so I could brush up on my Buck info, I wouldn’t complain. ;-)

  3. Ben Foster
    October 17, 2011 at 10:09 am

    There are alternate takes of nearly every song on this collection, which is fantastic for music nerds and Owens completists (you’re probably one and/or the other if this album’s in your collection).

    I love how you can tell this is a Juli review without even reading the by-line :)

  4. Rick
    October 17, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    An interesting side-note tidbit: One of the things that delayed Buck getting signed to Capitol had to do with his involvement with the Farmer Boys. Buck had been doing studio work with them as a guitar player circa 1955-6 and they asked Buck if he had any songs they could record. Buck provided them with “Yearning, Burning Heart” and “Flash, Crash, and Thunder” which they liked so much they recorded both quickly and then waited to present to their A&R Rep as singles. Now the A&R Rep had already provided the Farmer Boys with some songs he wanted them to cut and was unaware of the Buck provided numbers until he heard the completed tracks! Feeling he had been undercut by both Buck and the Farmer Boys for doing this behind his back, poor Buck was placed in the proverbial doghouse until the A&R Rep finally cooled off.

    Capitol never even released an album from the Farmer Boys (it took Bear Family to finally compile that) but Buck became a label superstar for them of course. Funny how such a little thing could have almost derailed Buck from being signed by Capitol in those days.

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