There are two approaches to tributes, whether an individual song or an entire album. One is to make as faithful a recreation of the original music as possible. The second is to try to make the song your own while still paying homage to the original. Dwight Yoakam dives headlong into the second option in this tribute to Buck Owens, both a personal mentor and friend to Yoakam, who passed away early in 2006.
These 15 songs include mostly those that reached the top 5 and would be anticipated on such a disc, like "Crying Time," "Love's Gonna Live Here" and "Together Again." But the finest example of Yoakam taking the original and caressing it gently into a new mold is "Close Up the Honky Tonks," the first single. While Owens's version was much more upbeat in presentation if not in lyrical content, Yoakam slows it way down and makes the music match the message. What started as a song about love lost between a man and his mate is morphed into a song that seems to tap into Yoakam's pain at the loss of Owens.
It is hard not to think how perfectly Yoakam fits into the personae of "Act Naturally," another gem. "Well I hope you come and seem me in the movies," seemed to have been written for the man who has drawn rave reviews for films like "Sling Blade" and "Panic Room."
Yet, it still is Owens who shines through on each cut. Yoakam made sure his presence wasn't lost in process of transforming the music, and that effort makes the album hold together as a strong entity.