Buck Owens was hardly an overnight success when he landed his first major hit with "Under Your Spell Again" in 1959 -- he'd been playing gigs in Bakersfield honky tonks since 1951, and was picking session guitar for the likes of Faron Young and Wanda Jackson as early as 1954. But unlike many country stars, Owens didn't spend a long time slugging it out on small labels before hitting the big time, and Down on the Corner of Love, a compilation which collects the majority of material Owens recorded for the tiny Pep label in 1956, contains a mere 11 songs and plays for less than 20 minutes. There's a bit less rough-and-tumble energy on these tunes than Owens' best Capitol sides, and the great Don Rich hadn't signed on as guitarist just yet (worse still, the pedal steel player on these sessions seems to have one riff in his repertoire, which doesn't take long to wear out its welcome). But Owens already had a great, room-filling voice and "After the Dance," "It Don't Show on Me," and the title tune show he also had the songs to match it. This set closes with "Rhythm and Booze," a great rockabilly tune Owens recorded under the name Corky Jones, though for some reason its flip side, "Hot Dog," doesn't make the cut. Beautifully packaged and featuring great liner notes by Kurt Wolff, Down on the Corner of Love is a fine look at the early work of one of the giants of the California country scene, but the 2001 collection Young Buck: The Complete Pre-Capitol Recordings has all this and enough outtakes and alternate versions to stretch this out to full-album length, (though thankfully DBK Works were sensible enough to price this as a budget item).
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming