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