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Don Rich and the Buckaroos

Country Pickin' – 2000 (Sundazed)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by Don Rich and the Buckaroos

When Don Rich's motorcycle hit a highway divider on July 16, 1974, it not only cost the talented musician his life, but effectively killed the musical career of his long-time mentor Buck Owens as well. Rich was Owens' collaborator almost from the outset of that career, and with his driving telecaster and flawless high harmonies, came to be an equal partner in shaping the Buckaroos' signature sound.

The focus here isn't on Rich's work with Owens per se, however. The Buckaroos released at least one and sometimes two albums a year sans Buck in the latter part of the '60s, and by drawing for the most part on these albums, this anthology has the double virtue of focusing on the work that came closest to being a solo career for Rich while at the same time reissuing a good chunk of material from these albums. Aside from a handful of instrumentals featuring his trademark guitar sound, there's an ample serving of selections highlighting his fiddle playing, an instrument that in his druthers was a poor second to the guitar but on which he nonetheless excelled. And the absence of Owens allows Rich to step up to the mike and demonstrate that he was no slouch at handling lead vocals, either.

This compilation reminds us of what anyone with the slightest familiarity with the work of Buck Owens already knows: Don Rich was a phenomenal talent whose untimely death was a serious blow to country music.