Dwight Yoakam

Dwight Sings Buck

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Is there any singer better suited to record an album of Buck Owens covers than Dwight Yoakam? Yoakam first came onto the country scene in the 1980s as the new face and voice of Bakersfield country, a subgenre Owens and Merle Haggard had put on the map. Yoakam not only sang the praises of Owens, he sang with the West Coast legend, and their duet on a cover of Owens' "Streets of Bakersfield" reached number one on the country charts in 1988, despite Yoakam's refusal to play by the rules of the Nashville-based industry. With Owens' death in 2006, it was only a matter of time before Yoakam honored his idol, but even if Dwight Sings Buck was inevitable, that doesn't make it any less of a welcomed event. Yoakam's love for these anthems is palpable in every track. He doesn't set out to imitate Owens' style or delivery, but he does capture the essence of each song, playing them as Buck intended: no frills, no foolin' around (even if that's the title of one of the songs Yoakam takes on). Yoakam even takes care to absorb the instrumental backings provided for Owens by his great Buckaroos, particularly the guitarist Don Rich. That doesn't mean the album is an exercise in retro: Yoakam does put a contemporary sheen on classics like "Act Naturally," "Close Up the Honky Tonks," "Together Again," "Cryin' Time," and "Under Your Spell Again" -- they sound natural coming from his mouth rather than Owens' yet there is no mistaking whose songs these are. If there is one disappointment it's that Yoakam didn't include "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail," one of Owens' best-known hits. Still, despite that one glaring omission this is a tribute in the purest sense of the word, and an album no fan of either artist should miss.

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