Country Pickin': The Don Rich Anthology
It's hard to imagine Buck Owens and the Buckaroos' seminal '60s recordings without the effortlessly inventive guitar work and spookily soulful harmonies of Owens's longtime sidekick Don Rich, whose economical, expressive playing was not only a crucial element of Owens's music, but a cornerstone of the twangy, rockabilly-influenced Bakersfield country sound that Owens helped to pioneer. Country Pickin' is a long-overdue 24-track compilation drawn mainly from the Buckaroos' own '60s albums that shines a flattering spotlight on the self-effacing sideman's remarkable talents. While he proves an engaging lead vocalist on sturdy tunes like "I'm Goin' Back Home Where I Belong" and "Love's Gonna Come a Knockin'," Rich truly lets loose on the instrumentals. "Chicken Pickin'," "Chaparral," and "Aw Heck" showcase his subtly superlative axework, while "Orange Blossom Special" and "Buckersfield Breakdown" feature his equally impressive, if lesser known, fiddle skills. Listening to these tracks, it's not hard to understand why Owens all but ended his recording career after Rich died in a 1974 motorcycle accident, just shy of his 33rd birthday.