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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Under the Influence of Buck

Posted By on Wed, Nov 28, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Dwight Yoakam
Dwight Sings Buck

New West

"Most modern country sounds like bad rock bands," says Tom Petty in Peter Bogdanovich's great new documentary about him. Conversely, it's ironic that a lot of old Buck Owens has always sounded like great rock 'n' roll bands. There's a reason the Beatles covered him; even Hee-Haw couldn't tarnish his musical legacy. A year after his death, we get two tributes from disciples.

Austin's Derailers, who grew close to Owens during his latter years, play it straight. They've always been great purveyors of that certain "Bakersfield sound." Only problem is that, right down to the inflection in singer Brian Hofeldt's voice and the Don Rich-like licks, it all sounds a little too much like Buck. I'll bet this stuff sounds great live. But on record, it often sounds too much like an imitation, perhaps like Buckmania (preferable to modern country radio, nevertheless).

Yoakam helped Buck revive his career in the late '80s with "Streets of Bakersfield" and remained extremely close to him, delivering a eulogy at his funeral. Although there are repeats ("Cryin' Time," "Love's Gonna Live Here"), Yoakam (whose band misses the great Pete Anderson) reinterprets everything on his tribute. "Close Up the Honky Tonks" is now a ballad. Buck did it better, though, and so did Gram Parsons. Yoakam's is probably the more interesting of the two albums, but by default, the Derailers' covers album is probably the one you'd rather hear rocking at a beer blast. But why play either when you can still just go to the original source?

Bill Holdship is the music editor of Metro Times Send comments to bholdship@metrotimes.com.

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