Merle Haggard / Reviews

Review: Buck Owens “Bound For Bakersfield”

Buck Owens
Bound For Bakersfield:
The Complete Pre-Capitol Collection

Filled with outtakes, re-takes and double-takes, Bound for Bakersfield demonstrates what the eventual Honky-Tonkin’ Hee-Haw host had at stake before he ever said “Buck it” to contemporary influence.   This collection of pre-Capitol recordings, half from 1950s Hollywood sessions,  is a compilation of previously unreleased Owens songs, that will prove to be pure California gold for Classic Country collectors.

Perhaps a sign of the times, Bound for Bakersfield is a glimpse into an eminent era in the evolution of Owens’ career that hearkens memories of the early Memphis style rockabilly born from Sun Records artists such as Carl Perkins, and later country crossover musicians like Johnny Cash, with the telecaster tinged tracks “Hot Dog” and “Rhythm and Boose.”  Still, Owens demonstrates his ode to roots when he pulls out the twangy whine with the Hank Williams style hurt ballads “Blue Love” and “House Down The Block,”  which includes the rather cryptic line, “They don’t know how often I wish that I was dead.”

Though this formerly archived catalog certainly suggests that Owens was on his way to starting an Americana Revolution, it  seems the Founding Father of the Bakersfield Sound might still have been waiting for Merle Haggard to swing by the West Coast outpost to  sign the Outlaw Declaration of Independence.

Of course, tracks like “Please Don’t Take Her From Me” and “There Goes My Love” might foreshadow that not only was Owens about to secede from the Nashville establishment, but retrospectively, that the Hag may also have been on his way to stealing Bonnie Owens from fellow So-Cal icon and co-conspirator.

Whether or not Bound For Bakersfield breaks new ground in scratching the surface on this legend’s formative years, gems like the simple but sad “Sweethearts in Heaven” reminds listeners of what would become an innovative signature style. And now that it’s been some time since  he’s been gone, it seems all Buck Owens enthusiasts can hope for is that he is indeed “behind the pearly gates” with all the other greats,  that the current exhibit at the Country Hall of Fame does justice to his influential body of work and that there’s still more to come from the vaults of long defunct, Chesterfield, Pep and La Brea labels.




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