Buck Owens, Honky Tonk Man: Buck Sings Country Classics
Representing nearly 50 years of wide-ranging country music
Originally recorded for the notoriously corny hillbilly sketch comedy series Hee Haw, the covers on the new Buck Owens comp Honky Tonk Man represent nearly 50 years of country music, from Jimmie Rodgers’s 1928 hit “In the Jailhouse Now” through “Rednecks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Hit,” a hit for Johnny Russell in 1973. Owens pioneered the Bakersfield Sound, which amplified the primarily acoustic genre of country music, and Honky Tonk Man shows just how wide ranging that sound was, how easily it could adapt to various other strains of country music. It helps that the Buckaroos (who pre-recorded their tracks and mimed playing along with Owens on Hee Haw) were one of the tightest country bands of their time, lending a jumpy momentum to Stonewall Jackson’s “I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water” and a surprising rhythmic sophistication to Charley Pride’s “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone.” Owens recorded his vocals as mere reference tracks for the musicians and mixers, but he doesn’t hold back, attacking these songs with the same interpretive sensitivity he brought to his proper recordings. Ultimately, Honky Tonk Man is the rare archival collection that serves as an apt introduction to Owens and his brand of electrified country music.