Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, The Complete Capitol Singles: 1957–1966. If you think you know country music but haven’t familiarized yourself with Buck Owens’s catalog, it’s time to return to school. Along with Merle Haggard, Owens played a key role in popularizing the back-to-basics Bakersfield (California) Sound, and he influenced a generation of artists, including Dwight Yoakam, who contributed liner notes to this two-disc singles collection. Though rooted in country and hillbilly music and featuring pedal steel and fiddle, Owens’ work incorporated rock and roll influences and tended to be more elemental and less syrupy than what issued from Nashville.
The singer, who died in 2006, topped the country charts 21 times, and scored more than two dozen additional Top 20 hits. This chronologically arranged 56-track program, much of it written or co-written by Owens, contains 12 of the number ones (all on disc two), and many of the other top singles, including “Act Naturally,” which the Beatles covered; “Loose Talk” and “Mental Cruelty,” both duets with Rose Maddox; and “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail,” which crossed over to the pop charts.
Whitney Rose, South Texas Suite. Rose—who writes and sings with a style and attitude that scream “Texas native” but actually moved to the state from Canada—made a strong impression with 2015’s Raul Malo-produced Heartbreaker of the Year. Now comes an even stronger EP, due out in January, that features six more pop/country originals. Highlights include the Tex-Mex-flavored, accordion-spiced “Three Minute Love Affair”; a sweet ballad called “Bluebonnets for My Baby”; and the up-tempo “My Boots,” which will transport you to a Texas dancehall. Rose’s vocals are superb throughout, as is the backup by such veteran players as Redd Volkaert and Earl Poole Ball.
Jack Mack and the Heart Attack Horns, Back to the Shack. There’s no Jack Mack in Jack Mack and the Heart Attack Horns, but there are definitely horns, and there could be a heart attack for anyone who’s not in shape for a major soul workout. The outfit scores one triumph after another on this latest CD, which recalls Stax/Volt’s heyday and is dedicated to such influences as James Brown, B.B. King, Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Albert King, Marvin Gaye, and Wilson Pickett. On standouts like “Don’t Let Her Go” and “Somebody to Trust,” chief strengths include the sublime vocals of Mark Campbell, who reminds me of Gary U.S. Bonds, and the aforementioned killer horns. Take your heart medicine and crank it up.
Daniel Koulack, Frailing to Succeed. This is not what you’d expect from a clawhammer-style banjo player, unless perhaps you’ve heard the album Koulack made last year with fiddler Karnnel Sawitsky, which flirted with jazz. Koulack dives further into that genre on the instrumental Frailing to Succeed, which recalls both Oregon and Paul Winter Consort. The artist performs with a five-member band that includes a pair of saxophonists, a bassist, a percussionist, and a prominently featured marimba player; guests add such other instruments as flute, viola, fiddle, penny whistle, congas, and accordion. The music—all written or, in two cases co-written, by Koulack—is soothing, upbeat, and consistently engaging.
Jeff Burger’s books include Lennon on Lennon: Conversations with John Lennon, Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches, and Encounters, and Leonard Cohen on Leonard Cohen: Interviews and Encounters. His website, byjeffburger.com, contains more than four decades' worth of music reviews and commentary.