Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Unfortunately I missed Vince Gill on a recent trip to my locale (lousy kids and their lousy needs to be driven to the lousy beach on the lousy ocean in the beautiful, lousy summer).  However, I can soak up the sounds on this new collection, certainly one of the most enjoyable of his long career.  Here Gill teams up with one of the best pedal steel players of all time, multi-award winner Paul Franklin, who has played on tons of country releases, as well as cuts for Mark Knopfler, Sting and, ah, Megadeth.  This set is special, a tribute to the two towers of the Bakersfield sound, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens.

Gill believes these cuts come from country's most important era, and while there's some argument to be made for earlier songs, certainly nothing better has come along since.  Hag and Owens were both tremendous writers and singers, and were able to conjure stories of intense, personal issues.  Owens' Together Again turned the trick of heartache on its tale; the couple is back together, but the lyrics and sad notes tell us about the hell he just went through, separated from the one he needs most.  Haggard's The Bottle Let Me Down is the ultimate country drinking song, where the booze is poured to forget a lover, until the night comes when not even that can keep her memory away.  Another Haggard gem, Holding Things Together, is a weeper on another whole scale, our singer trying to keep the family home going with his wife gone, the reason unstated.  Just try not to get choked up when she misses her daughter's birthday, but the situation is saved because the father mailed a package days before with the mother's signature faked on it.

Gill and Franklin stretch that number out to six minutes, with room for a long, sad guitar solo from Vince.  The vocals were only one side of the excitement he felt for the project, as he also got to exercise his superb lead guitar skills on everything.  The Bakersfield sound has become pretty much as important as the Nashville style of the same time, its fiddle and steel, plus twangy guitar heard later in Outlaw country, and from acolytes Dwight Yoakam and half of Austin.  Gill and Franklin don't try to update it or add their own touches; it's pretty much perfect as is.  They both can play the heck out of it, and Gill doesn't oversing either, which is important.  His voice is so naturally fine, he could sweeten it too much, but instead he channels the Okie in him, which works just fine, if you know your California history.  Yup, this is the stuff.

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