1971 was a good year for Buck Owens to try new things. Early in the year, he released an album of folk-rock tunes featuring covers of Paul Simon and Bob Dylan compositions, and a few months later he headed back into the roots of country music with this set of classic bluegrass tunes. While many of the performances on Ruby & Other Bluegrass Specials might ruffle the feathers of bluegrass purists with the presence of drums, electric bass, backing choruses, and the occasional presence of organ and piano, there's no arguing that Buck and this lineup of the Buckaroos tear into these ten tracks with the enthusiasm of true fans. Ron Jackson's rollicking banjo anchors these sessions, and the great Don Rich shows he was as strong a hand on the fiddle as he was on electric guitar, while Buck sings with a passion and joy that gives these songs plenty of life. And while "Rocky Top," "Uncle Pen," and "Salty Dog Blues" are practically clichés of bluegrass today, Owens treats them like the bedrock of acoustic country (which they are), and at a time when bluegrass occupied the lowest rungs of the country music circuit, this tribute to the music's joy and strength is both great listening and an affirmation of country's roots at a time when Nashville was making its first steps into the mainstream.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming