Merle Haggard / Bonnie Owens

Just Between the Two of Us

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Within the California country music community, there's no arguing that Bonnie Owens married well; her first husband was Buck Owens, whom she married in 1948, and in 1965 she tied the knot again with Merle Haggard. Bonnie performed in the same band with Buck for a brief period while they were first married, and she later enjoyed a few hits as Haggard's duet partner; when Just Between the Two of Us was released, Hag's career as one of country's most dependable hitmakers was only just getting off the ground. However, while Bonnie Owens was a good honky tonk singer, she was hardly a great one like Haggard, who seems to be holding himself back a bit musically as he defers to his spouse. And while Hag and his band the Strangers are in typically strong form, this set of love songs (and the occasional cheatin' weeper) lacks the flinty power of Haggard's classic outlaw ballads. It's good to have Just Between the Two of Us available again, but only Haggard completists will really feel obligated to own it.

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