We miss Buck Owens. Genial, shrewd, goofy, and incredibly gifted, Owens shared the pop and country music stage with the vast crowd of '60s musical wunderkinder. He stood his Top 40 ground with the Beatles, who liked him enough to cover him ("Act Naturally" was Ringo's signature theme), while performers like Ray Charles used Owens tunes like "Together Again" to bridge soul, pop, and country. Both of those songs are featured on Dwight Yoakam's new CD, which pays tribute to his friend Buck in a fashion that can't be described as uncommon because there's nothing in the Owens catalog that is out of reach, for audiences then or now. Owens had a big influence on Yoakam, but it's a mistake to think of Owens, or the Bakersfield sound, as Yoakam's main point of reference, as some are suggesting. His umbrella is much bigger than that. But he loved Owens as a person and an artist, so it's no surprise that this CD follows in the wake of Owens' death in 2006. Yoakam nudges some songs ("Together Again" is interestingly reconfigured here), pulls out shades of meaning in others, and there's never a moment when Yoakam's deep affection for his friend doesn't underscore the lyrics, even the funny ones. This is as smart and solid a set of Owens songs as there is ever likely to be. We miss Buck, but Dwight Yoakam mourns him, and honors him.
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