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Yoakam honors Owens

Audio review

Dwight Yoakam, “Dwight Sings Buck” (New West). Dwight Yoakam has carried Buck Owens in his artistic DNA since his first album more than 20 years ago. He’s let it rise to the surface before, most clearly when Yoakam revived the legend’s hit “Streets of Bakersfield” and pulled Owens out of retirement to duet on the song.

After Owens’ death at age 76 in March 2006, Yoakam began planning a tribute to his friend. “Dwight Sings Buck” probes the spot where Owens’ influence melts into Yoakam’s distinctive style. Rather than stick to faithful revivals of Owens classics “Under Your Spell Again,” “Act Naturally” and “My Heart Skips a Beat,” Yoakam gives them a twist – sometimes playful, sometimes mournful – that brings them alive.

Yoakam emphasizes Owens’ distinguishing traits: crisp yet inventive rhythms, a fat Telecaster twang and slurring, spiky vocals. Just as Owens turned heartbreak and self-loathing into party anthems, Yoakam inhabits these chestnuts with fresh, colorful personality. He also wisely goes beyond the most frequently covered Owens songs to dig up lessrevived gems like “Only You” and “Down on the Corner of Love.”

In the end, Yoakam tips his Stetson to his idol by acknowledging his artful way of showing people how to laugh through their tears.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: Yoakam runs one of Owens most mischievous tunes, “Foolin’ Around,” through a funhouse mirror, paying homage yet altering key aspects just enough to force a double-take.


Associated Press writer

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