Written by Fantasma el Rey
Dwight Sings Buck is more than a tribute album. It’s a salute to country music pioneer and innovator, Buck Owens. Performed by Dwight Yoakam who is the best modern representative and torchbearer of Buck’s signature style known as the Bakersfield sound. What Buck began Dwight has taken and pushed forward, adding his personal touch to the sound making it something all his own. What better way to salute his hero than to record an entire CD of Buck’s popular songs that Dwight likes most.
The Bakersfield sound is an edgy, electrified/twangy guitar-led rockabilly approach to honky-tonk style country. Buck and Merle Haggard are seen as its founding fathers, although Merle has the rockin’ rebel attitude. His brand of the Bakersfield sound leans more towards straightforward honky tonk. Buck, the first star from Bakersfield, brought this edge to country music in the 1960s at a time when the music from Nashville was over-produced and string-laden. From early on Buck’s influence could be heard, especially in the new country sounds being made by a younger generation with names like Gram Parsons and Willie Nelson at the head of the pack.
Skip to the 1980s and another generation at the reins, fusing another element to the sound, giving it new life and sparking the flame a new. With Dwight Yoakam out front the Bakersfield sound would be blended with a punk attitude and even more rockabilly thunder. In the mid ‘50s Buck did record a few rockabilly sides under the alias Corky Jones; yeah, needless to say they went nowhere but do live in the hearts of fans. Dwight took it all up a notch and delivered to the world what I like to call “revved-up hillbilly music,” drawing heavily from his boyhood heroes Buck and Merle. Shaking the scene around with his debut album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. and eventually teaming with Buck on a remake of “Streets Of Bakersfield.”
Taking another step forward, Dwight has reworked his favorite Buck tunes and puts his stamp on the songs he respects. His band is sharp and brings their own revved-up sound to Buck classics such as “My Heart Skips A Beat,” “Down On The Corner Of Love,” “Love’s Gonna Live Here” and the mega-hit “Act Naturally.” With Dwight the sound is kicked up by a solid and more pronounced rhythm section, drums hit harder and the bass plucks louder. In his hands the sound has a sharper edge and has never been as tough.
“Under Your Spell Again” comes off like a Duane Eddy surf tune with its electric bass over the originals doghouse bass. Losing none of the attitude and only adding to the toughness of the song. Dwight tackles “Excuse Me (I Think I’ve Got A Heartache)” with the same energy and makes the Buck-penned tune a Dwight rocker. He gives the same treatment to “Think Of Me” and “Foolin’ Around,” letting his twang-filled voice and his band loose to spread havoc on the honky-tonk hardwood floor. Dwight also shines on ballads, pleading his love on the songs “Cryin’ Time” and “Together Again,” where the tempo slows and the piano gently rolls along while the steel guitar cries its pain right along side Dwight’s vocals.
No matter what he decides to sing from Buck, or anyone else, Dwight does a fine job and carries the torch with style that remains all his own while pulling from the past, looking toward the future, and expanding the road first trod upon by other country music pathfinders and trailblazers.