Black Music Matters Festival

Buck Owens

Young Buck – 2001 (Audium/Country Music Foundation)

Reviewed by Jon Weisberger

In country music, where artists often stick with a signature sound throughout their careers, early recordings are often especially interesting, and this, which gathers all of the cuts Buck Owens recorded before signing with Capitol Records, is a fine example.

By 1960, when he began hitting the top of the charts with some regularity, Owens had teamed up with guitarist/fiddler Don Rich to create a version of "the Bakersfield sound" that infused the classic country shuffle with a measure of rock'n'roll energy. Yet before his trademark style was in place, Owens was just another young singer/songwriter struggling to find his own voice, and while his distinctive, keening voice, crisp melodies and penchant for wordplay were evident from the start, it took Owens a few years to polish them. Across these 16 selections (and an additional 5 alternate versions and demos), one can hear the process at work.

Not surprisingly, many of these recordings seem to have been made hastily, and on more than one occasion with pretty clueless musicians (someone should have taken the unidentified bass player on "Down On The Corner Of Love" into a corner and pummeled him). Yet, the raw energy, especially on Owens' legendary rockabilly cuts (released under a "Corky Jones" pseudonym), and emerging talent that inform these sides gives them more than just historical worth.