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Ear Bliss: New releases–both collections of covers–recorded in the 1970s

February 22, 2013

The recent album "Don Rich Sings George Jones", released by Omnivore Records, got the Ear Bliss treatment this week.

Few, if any, country and western music performers kicked out as many addictive two-minute blasts of melodic honky tonk heaven like Buck Owens and his Buckaroos band did in the 1960s. Owens songs and music had a ring to them.

One thing you rarely ever found on a Buck Owens album was a cover song. Reissue house Omnivore Recordings offers up another side of the Owens recording persona with a brand new covers-only collection by the late hall of famer. A cornerstone of Owens’ Buckaroos band was the great guitarist Don Rich. It was Rich who was responsible for many of the priceless licks that defined the Buck Owens sound. He also gets the Omnivore Recordings treatment with the issue of his never-before released solo album on which he covered classic songs from the George Jones catalogue. Each of these collections gets the Ear Bliss look-see this week.

Buck Owens
Honky Tonk Man
Omnivore Recordings

Whereas Buck Owens had countless number one hits in his 1960s recording heyday with his band The Buckaroos, arguably his greatest commercial success came in the 1970s as one of the co-hosts (with Roy Clark) of the hillbilly-centric variety program Hee Haw. While comedy was the main focus of the program, music from Owens and Clark never failed to find its way into the mix. The collection Honky Tonk Man gathers 18 country classics from a treasure trove of newly discovered recordings Owens made in his Bakersfield studio in the early 1970s for the program. In other words, 18 previously unissued Owens recordings. The set begins with a cover of the Johnny Horton classic that doubles as the title of the collection and never lets up as Owens trots out one honky tonk nugget after another delivering the goods with gusto and vibrancy. “Swinging Doors”, “Hey, Good Lookin’”, “My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You”, “Live Fast, Love Hard Die Young”, “In the Jailhouse Now”, “Is Anybody Going to San Antone”, and “Jambalaya” are just some of the treetops. Simply put, there not a bad apple in the bunch with Owens in peak form. Here’s hoping there’s more where this came from and the Omnivore folks see fit to keep the releases coming. Visit www.omnivorecordings.com.

Don Rich
Sings George Jones
Omnivore Recordings

Don Rich was only 17 when Buck Owens saw him playing at a restaurant in Tacoma, Washington. The year was 1958 and Owens introduced himself that evening and next thing you know, Rich was playing fiddle with Owens each time he ventured back Washington way. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that Rich would finally make the move to Bakersfield and sign on as a regular member of Owens’ band. It would begin one of the great relationships in country music history, bandleader Owens writing songs and singing and Rich his right hand man leading Owens’ Buckaroos band on guitar helping to further forge that addictive, Fender-driven Bakersfield sound. Rich was a loyal soldier to Owens and the Buckaroos satisfied with his role as lead guitarist and harmony vocalist. Suffice to say, Owens was enamored with Rich’s talent. By the mid-1960s, the Buckaroos were also releasing albums, albeit heavy on the instrumentals, with Rich as the lead singer the occasional vocal track. They were also charting. Rich’s stock was rising and it was finally decided to take a stab at a solo record and going the safe route by recording an album of hit songs by C&W king pin George Jones. It never saw release and Rich’s tragic 1974 death made release even less likely and it remained buried deep in the Owens tape vault. Just recently discovered, it finally sees the light of day thanks to Omnivore Records. Don Rich Sings George Jones presents the original 10 songs recorded in 1970 in the Buck Owens Studios. Rich is in fine form both vocally and musically and what with the material all being classic Jones songs, you can‘t go wrong. As an extra bonus, the collection features four never-released recordings of Owens himself also covering Jones songs. For the classic C&W fan, it’s a no brainer just like the Owens set.

LIVE SHOTS:

The local singer/songwriter Dylan Sevey and his band The Gentlemen have a brand new CD released on of all days, Super Bowl Sunday. They celebrate its arrival in South County style on Friday night at Perry’s Bar & Grille located in Mariner Square in Narragansett. Things get going at 8 pm and its free admission.

With five platinum album and 15 number one hits to his credit, Collin Raye had some pretty decent success as a Nashville country hitmaker. He comes to the Mishnock Barn in West Greenwich (200 Mishnock Road), on Friday evening for a special performance. Doors open at 7 pm. That same evening, the Brooklyn-based funk army known as Turkuaz invades The Ocean Mist (895 Matunuck Beach Rd, Matunuck) on Saturday. With music described as something akin to tossing a lit match into a dumpster full of firework, the band’s stage show combines influences from Sly and the Family Stone to Talking Heads into an explosive auditory and visual circus, a full-frontal assault on the senses.
Celebrate Mardi Gras, albeit s bit belatedly, at the 21st annual Cajun & Zydeco Mardi Gras Ball which happens on Saturday evening at Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet in Cranston (60 Rhodes Place). Featured performers are all no strangers to these parts and include Jeffrey Broussard & the Creole Cowboys, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, and Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic. Music runs from 6 pm to midnight.
The Tim Taylor Blues Band is a pretty reliable outfit, so head to the Narragansett Café (25 Narragansett Avenue, Jamestown) on Sunday afternoon to check out their sturdy brand of blues. Things get going at 4 pm.

(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3.)

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