Country fans who yearn for the sounds from a bygone era will want to circle the date of July 30 on their calendar. MCA Nashville will release “Bakersfield,” a new collaborative project from Vince Gill and steel guitar virtuoso Paul Franklin.
The album serves as a tribute to the legendary California sound made famous by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. The two chose five songs each from each artist’s catalog. But, according to Gill, the album pays equal homage to the musicians who made those records come to life, such as Don Rich and Roy Nichols.
“This is just as much a guitar record for me as it is a singing record,” Gill says, “But, it was fun for me to sing a whole record of the greatest songs ever. What I’m real proud of is that when it’s one of Buck’s songs, I sing it very much in that vein. And the Haggard songs are very much in the vein he sang. With Buck’s songs, you won’t find much vibrato in my vocals, and with Merle’s, it will come down to a low note and that quiver.”
Of the Owens cuts, Gill tips his hat to the 1964 classic “Together Again,” top ten hits “Nobody’s Fool But Yours,” and “Foolin’ Round,” as well as the underrated gems “But I Do” and “He Don’t Deserve You Anymore.” He keeps the Haggard material focused on the hits, with cuts like “Branded Man,” “The Bottle Let Me Down,” and “The Fightin’ Side Of Me” being included alongside “Holding Things Together” and “I Can’t Be Myself,” an overlooked 1970 top ten hit that Gill produced a cover of on LeAnn Rimes’ 2011 disc Lady & Gentlemen. It’s music close to Gill’s heart – and according to his recording partner, it shows.
“This may be Vince’s greatest project,” Franklin says. “What a showcase! I’ve heard him sing for 30 years, but he sings licks on this record I never heard before.”
The album was produced by Gill and Franklin at Gill’s home studio, using the cream of the crop of Nashville musicians, including John Hobbs, Greg Morrow, Willie Weeks, Brad Albin, J.T. Corenflos, and fellow Time Jumpers Kenny Sears, Larry Franklin, Joe Spivey, and Dawn Sears on harmony vocals. Gill played all the acoustic and electric guitar fills and solos.
The music certainly seemed to impress Haggard. In writing the liner notes for the album, he stated “Vince and Paul offer a great new touch on a great old sound. It was great, certainly to hear my music done with the great touch of Vince and Paul. I feel highly complimented. It’s especially great to hear what they did with Buck’s stuff. Some may not notice, but I, for one, knew how great Buck really was, first as a musician, then as an artist.” Haggard was once a member of Owens’ band, the Buckaroos in 1962 – even giving the band its’ name.
The iconic singer/songwriter adds, “I can only give the entire project a big ole double, thumbs up! Well done guys, the West Coast takes a bow.”