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The Buckaroos

The Buckaroos Play Buck & Merle – 2013 (Omnivore)

Reviewed by Rick Bell

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A little Bakersfield Sound karaoke, anyone? If you need to brush up on your Merle Haggard warble or Buck Owens drawl before hitting the bowling alley lounge on Saturday night, this is your record. Or, more precisely, two records. Owens' crackerjack band The Buckaroos recorded this collection of 12 of Owens' biggest hits in 1965, then six years later laid down 10 of Haggard's top songs.

Predictably, the pacing tends to drag a bit as the album wears on, largely because the likes of guitarists Don Rich and Doyle Holly and steel guitarist Tom Brumley for the most part are confined to background instrumentals versus out-and-out lead riffs. The records were recorded to be songbooks - largely meant as sing-along accompaniment. Rich gets in his licks on My Heart Skips a Beat, but remains fairly restrained on Love's Gonna Live Here.

The Buckaroos offer a tasty collection of Haggard classics, but too often muddle them with noisy instrumentation. Hungry Eyes has a pulsing organ throughout as well as unneeded background singers on the chorus. Same thing with Mama Tried -annoying organ, background vocals and strings unnecessarily muck up a Haggard classic. Which makes the song almost un-karaoke. Worse, the cluttered sound actually makes it unlistenable.