Omnivore Recordings is bound for Bakersfield, and the honky-tonks are still open!
With Fresno to the north and Los Angeles to the south, the town of Bakersfield, California might have been an unlikely candidate for Nashville West, but so it was when Buck Owens, Ferlin Husky, Merle Haggard and other back-to-basics country stars called it home. Owens made the town his adopted residence from the age of 21, and directly answered the “countrypolitan” sound coming out of Tennessee with an unabashedly pure country sound. Bakersfield’s proud lineage as a musical epicenter is still celebrated today; an exhibit entitled The Bakersfield Sound is currently packing ‘em in at the Country Music Hall of Fame in…Nashville! And Omnivore is doing its part. The label has slated two albums of never-before-released Bakersfield music for January 23, 2013 release: Buck Owens’ Honky Tonk Man and Don Rich Sings George Jones.
Honky Tonk Man follows on the heels of the Black Friday Record Store Day exclusive vinyl EP Buck Sings Eagles, in which the Hee Haw man puts his stamp on California country-rock classics “Tequila Sunrise,” “Take It Easy,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Lyin’ Eyes.” That release itself follows past Omnivore treasures from the Owens camp, including a swell coloring book (!) and two rare live sets on one CD. The eighteen tracks on Honky Tonk Man were culled from the material Owens recorded at his Bakersfield studio for Hee Haw in the early ’70s. With his musical performances, Owens paid homage to his forebears as well as his contemporaries, and so the disc includes takes on “In the Jailhouse Now,” dating back to 1928 via Jimmie Rodgers, to “Rednecks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer,” a hit for Johnny Russell in 1973. In between, you’ll hear songs from Hanks Williams and Snow, the late, great Johnny Horton, and even a tip of the ten-gallon hat to Haggard with “Swinging Doors.” All told, Honky Tonk Man offers eighteen slabs of prime Owens.
After the jump: much more on the boys from Bakersfield!
On both sets featured on Omnivore’s Buck Owens Live at the White House, the headliner was supported by Don Rich. The guitarist-fiddler-singer was a major part of Owens’ organization from the late 1950s through his untimely death in a 1974 motorcycle accident. Rich supported Buck onstage and in the studio, and featured prominently on Capitol’s Buckaroos albums on both vocals and instrumental duties. Yet until now, Rich has been unknown as a solo artist. That’s about to change with the release of Don Rich Sings George Jones. His one and only solo album, it’s being unveiled in January for the very first time.
Rich’s fellow Buckaroo Jim Shaw recalled, “Buck went to Don and said, ‘Why don’t you do an album of George Jones covers?’ I suspect Buck thought, ‘That’s a good commercial way to go. George Jones has a huge pile of hits to choose from.’” And so the recording includes Rich’s versions of Jones hits like “White Lightning” and “The Race is On” along with four never-before-released George Jones covers by Buck himself: “The Race is On,” “Four-O-Thirty Three,” “Root Beer” and “Too Much Water.” Jones himself (recent subject of a reissue from the U.K.’s Morello label) will be recipient of a singles collection from Omnivore in 2013 following the Black Friday EP of his United Artists Rarities. (Check out Omnivore’s whole Black Friday line-up here, including titles from Wanda Jackson and Merle Haggard!)
Are you ready for the country? Buck Owens’ Honky Tonk Man and Don Rich’s Sings George Jones are both due in stores on January 23, 2013. We’ll update here with track listings and pre-order links for both albums as soon as they’re available!
Sundazed actually has already released a nice Don Rich anthology that compiles a lot of great instrumental tracks, as well as some of Rich's vocal tracks. It may be kind of an adjunct to Buckaroos material, but I think it's fair to call it a "solo" release. Looking forward to the George Jones stuff, too.
Patrick Milligan says
@John: yes - the Sundazed release is a compilation of tracks from various Buck Owens and Buckaroos albums that featured Don either on vocal, guitar, or fiddle. There was also a Capitol LP in the '70s that did a similar thing. This is actually an album that was recorded and intended to be released as a solo Don Rich album but was left in the vault - the only real solo album.
how exciting and unexpected... a Don Rich album languishing in the vaults for some 4 decades is finally going to be heard! Don was an absolute treasure and such a key collaborator on the classic Buck Owens sound of the 60s. The '70s Capitol LP was called 'That Fiddlin Man' and was comprised of instrumental fiddle tunes, but this looks like a totally different animal. Don Rich sings George Jones! Two of my all-time favorite artists are represented here. Do we know who accompanied Don on this set of tunes?
On a side note...On youtube I recently heard a studio version of Don Rich singing The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". I have a live version on CD but does anyone know if this studio version was officially released. Thanks!
Marmon Hammer says
Yes. It was released on 45, and it can still be found. There's one on eBay right now. Buy it.
Jeff Bobrofsky says
There's a list of musicans for this session on the Omnivore site-