Since Yoakam built much of his vocal style around that of the late Bakersfield master, and recorded with him on occasion, the two collaborating most famously on Owens's own work ('Streets of Bakersfield'), it is only natural that Yoakam do a whole album of Buck Owens' songs. Dwight Sings Buck moves briskly for 15 tracks, since 10 of them run under three minutes. Yoakam, who also produced the album, keeps the production shiny, punchy, and faithful to the golden age of honky-tonk. Adding just enough Dwight - and a little Elvis - to Buck's songs show that Iimitation may indeed be the sincerest form of flattery.
Of course, you're thinking, when did Dwight not
sing Buck? A fine question, since Yoakam built much of his vocal style around that of the late Bakersfield master, and recorded with him on occasion, the two even collaborating on Owens's own work ("Streets of Bakersfield"). So while this collection of Owens covers seems like a project Yoakam should have tackled in the '90s, it took Owens's 2006 death to spur his acolyte to action. Dwight Sings Buck
moves briskly for 15 tracks, since 10 of them run under three minutes--in keeping with the length of singles in Buck's heyday of the '60s--though several of Owens's most notable No. 1s are conspicuously absent ("I've Got a Tiger by the Tail," "Waitin' in Your Welfare Line"). Yoakam, who also produced the album, keeps the production shiny, punchy, and faithful to the golden age of honky-tonk (prominent percussion, weepy pedal steel, and jittery, stuttering electric guitars), and to some extent he replicates Don Rich's use of the guitar as a partner to the lead vocal. Yet at times, Yoakam almost comically attempts to duplicate Owens's elongated and dippy vowels ("I Don't Care"), while he also brings a new interpretation to "Together Again," deviating from the strictness of the melody and letting the instrumental ending play out for roughly 90 seconds. Then there is the odd track or two ("Above and Beyond," "Down on the Corner of Love") where Yoakam inserts inflections of another of his heroes, Elvis Presley, to nearly morph the Bakersfield Boss into the Memphis Flash. If several tracks also seem too studied in their smartness, and "Only You," with its funeral-parlor organ, features an excruciatingly tortured vocal, Yoakam finds his best moments when he just, well, acts naturally, as his old pal might say. "Close Up the Honky Tonks," the most compelling performance here, proves that imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but inspiration proves the sweetest gift of all. --Alanna Nash