For those dismayed by contemporary country music’s lack of steel guitar and shuffle rhythms, “Bakersfield” is your antidote. With Vince Gill no longer competing for radio hits, he turns his attention to one of the bedrock styles of the traditional American music that he loves.
Recruiting Paul Franklin – the most recorded pedal steel guitarist in Nashville in the past 25 years – Gill swaggers into the Telecaster-and-steel country sounds of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, heroes to millions of musicians who revere brawny, working-class music.
Gill’s tender tenor swings into these classic lyrics in a manner that tips his hat to the distinctive styles of both masters, yet he finds his own honky-tonk persona through them. Gill’s Fender guitar and Franklin’s pedal steel are just as substantial, coming up with inventive licks that pay tribute to the originals without being carbon copies. The selections include standards such as Hag’s “Branded Man” and “The Bottle Let Me Down” as well as Owens’ “Together Again” and “Foolin’ Around,” but the album benefits from reaching beyond the hits. Gill and Franklin dig out less familiar gems such as “Holding Things Together” by Haggard and “He Don’t Deserve You Anymore” by Owens, and both are as good as anything else here.
Vince Gill & Paul Franklin ‘Bakersfield’ Rating: W W W W
-Michael McCall, Associated Press