Vince Gill and Paul Franklin's "Bakersfield" - which was originally released this past July has definitely made an impact with traditionally minded country music fans, as the set made many "Best of" lists for 2013. One group of people that definitely took notice of the project was Lebanon, TN – based Cracker Barrel Old Country Store – who were so excited over the album that they urged the duo to go back into the studio and record some more tracks that pay homage to the music of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.
Next Monday, January 27, Cracker Barrel will release a new expanded edition of the album – featuring four new songs recorded especially the restaurant chain. Gill told Billboard that he and Franklin are very excited to showcase the disc for more people.
"The folks at Cracker Barrel have an honest love for music," he said. "They love partnering up, and having their brand being associated with music. For a restaurant, that is really rare. The opportunity we have to have the record be in front of people who are similarly minded to what they like as to what we do, it was a great opportunity for us."
For the collection, the duo recorded Owens' 1967 number one "Your Tender Loving Care," Haggard's "I Threw Away The Rose," Tommy Collins' "High On A Hilltop" - recorded by both Owens and Haggard, as well as "Buckin' Merle," an instrumental cut. Franklin said that each cut definitely fits into the style of the album. "For us, this record is as much an instrumental record between Vince's guitar play and my steel as much as it is a vocal record. When you listen to the melody and the cry in the lyric, it really lends itself to the steel guitar and guitar interplay. Vince had this instrumental churning for a while, and I think that's what everybody expected us to do. It gelled really good. I had always wanted to cut ‘I Threw Away The Rose,' which goes back to when I started playing, and there's a great Ralph Mooney steel solo that defined that period."
Gill was very proud to include "High On A Hilltop" on the new edition, as it ties in many of his musical influences.
"That was a song I had always known. My first recollection of hearing the song was by the Osborne Brothers in my bluegrass days. I always loved it, and I never forgot that lyric - ‘Somewhere you're dancing in some dingy bar room.' I just thought that was poetry in a hillbilly song. Come to find out, that was a Tommy Collins song – who was a mentor to both Buck and Merle. They had both recorded great versions of the song, and it had spiritual significance in the lyrics. It was a neat way to end the record, with something that has a connection to all of us, in a sense. Alison Krauss came in and sang like an angel on it. We chose her because the song is also tied to bluegrass, and she's the preeminent voice in bluegrass, so she was kind of enough to come over and sing some real pretty harmony."
Gill and Franklin recently performed "Together Again" on The Tonight Show, and have been on tour to promote the collection. Franklin says audiences have been very receptive – especially the hometown crowd in Kern County.
"We started building the album into the show, and watching the response of the audience has been great. It's been such a wonderful experience. When we played Bakersfield, it was great because of the support of the city. For me, Tom Brumley's son came up to watch the performance, and we got to meet Red Simpson that day. Buddy Alan was there, too. I think that album gave them something they were proud of too, and that meant a lot to me. "
And, though the relationship makes sense from a marketing level, as Cracker Barrel's music division has become very successful, Gill allows that there's another reason he's excited to be working with the company. A 10% discount, perhaps?
"There's a reason the size of my jeans are the size of my jeans," he jokes. "I always get the Uncle Herschel's. I always love a big breakfast. They do such a great job. I love their spirit and sense of tradition. Give me an Uncle Herschel's and I'm good."