Bridge Over Troubled Waterby Buck Owens
While Buck Owens made some of the best straightforward honky tonk records of the 1960s, the man wasn't afraid to expand his boundaries, cutting some great rockabilly sides as Corky Jones in 1957 and recording a fine version of Chuck Berry's "Memphis" in 1965. In 1971, at a time when most country acts were solidly supporting Nixon and the Vietnam War was increasing the divide between youth culture and the older and more conservative audiences who were the backbone of the country & western audience, Owens took a dramatic and unexpected step by cutting an album that musically had more to do with folk-rock than anything else. Featuring tunes by Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, and Donovan along with a handful of like-minded Owens originals, Bridge Over Troubled Water hardly sounds like Buck's attempt to court the hippie audience, but the simple, low-key, and often somber tone of these tunes is a switch from the up-tempo Bakersfield sound of his biggest hits. While lyrically "The Devil Made Me Do That" and "Within My Loving Arms" aren't especially far from his usual material, this album has a contemplative undertow that sets it apart from a typical country session of the day, with Don Rich's bright Telecaster runs most notable in their absence. "San Francisco Town" is a surprisingly sympathetic tale of a hippie down on his luck, while Owens tackles "Love Minus Zero - No Limit" and "Catch the Wind" with both empathy and enthusiasm. And while Buck's version of "I Am a Rock" is hardly the definitive take on the song, in his hands "Homeward Bound" sounds like a classic tale of a lost soul a long way from home -- in other words, just like a good country song. Heard today, Bridge Over Troubled Water sounds like an experiment by Buck Owens in exploring new sides of himself and his music, and it's an experiment that succeeds.
- Release Date:
- Sundazed Music Inc.
Performance CreditsBuck Owens Primary Artist,Guitar,Rhythm Guitar,Vocals
Don Rich Guitar,Rhythm Guitar,Background Vocals
Jim Shaw Organ,Harmonica,Piano,Harpsichord
Doyle Curtsinger Bass Guitar,Rhythm Guitar,Background Vocals
Jerry Wiggins Percussion,Drums,Tambourine
Buck Owens & His Buckaroos Background Vocals
Technical CreditsBuck Owens Producer,Engineer,Liner Notes,Audio Production
Rich Kienzle Liner Notes
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Owens was no late-comer to pop music. Even as he was redefining country music, he was open about his love of '50s rock pioneers and then-contemporary rock bands like The Beatles. So it's no surprise that by the early '70s, with the Bakersfield Sound well-established across numerous albums and tours that Owens would stretch out in new directions. The result is an album of covers and originals that highlight the deep soul of Owens' singing (and the telepathic harmonizing of The Buckaroos) while disconcerting listeners with its straight-ahead pop sound. ¶ With "Hee Haw" expanding Owens' audience outside the country mainstream, an album of contemporary pop by a country superstar must have struck several disparate chords: outside the mainstream (and to Owens' own regular producer, Ken Nelson) it looked like a square attempting to be trendy, while blue collar country fans may have wondered where the steel and telecasters ran off to. But Owens was a canny musician who knew that some of the day's best songwriters were writing outside the country idiom, and he clearly wanted a chance to sing their words. His liner notes suggest that the folk-rock songs of Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan and Donovan were really "country songs in disguise." ¶ The album opens with its highlight, a top-ten cover of "Bridge Over Troubled Water." The Buckaroos pick acoustic guitars and provide angelic harmonies to frame Owens' deeply soulful vocal. Additional Simon & Garfunkel covers, "Homeward Bound" and "I Am a Rock," don't fit as snugly, with the bright, snap beat of the latter at odds with the angry lyrics. Similarly, Donovan's "Catch the Wind" is too busy for its own good. ¶ Owens' folk-country originals stand tall, including the acoustic-and-dobro "San Francisco Town" that spells a bum's love for a hospitable town. It may have been every bit as starry-eyed as The Animals "San Franciscan Nights" and John Phillips' "San Francisco," but there's a bittersweet edge to the melody that makes it a wonderful companion to Owens earlier "Streets of Bakersfield." Also fine is the invitation to love "Within My Loving Arms" and the lost love of "Everything Reminds Me You're Gone." ¶ This is not the place to start one's Buck Owens collection, but for those who've followed his arc from country and rockabilly neophyte in the '50s to Bakersfield superstar in the '60s, this is a worthy spin. Owens voice is never less than compelling, and though the emotions of Dylan and others don't always fit tight, Owens' heart is evidenced in every song pick and the four originals that are worth the price of the disc.