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CD Review: Vince Gill & Paul Franklin - Bakersfield

              Vince Gill & Paul Franklin - Bakersfield

It is a rare occurrence when the stars line up together to create a celestial event that becomes unique and unforgettable.

That statement could describe an astronomical event recorded in the sky, or it could be the description of something incredible recorded on a multi track machine.  In this case we are speaking of the 2nd choice.

The last time I was so moved by a musical collaboration was when Johnny Cash was teamed with Joe Strummer on Redemption Song written by Bob Marley.  When I first heard it I said to myself, "This is just too much greatness all at once".

So it is with Bakersfield.

Let us begin with the source of the songs.
We are offered music by 2 of the most influential and inspiring artists of the 20th century.  Every song, a product of a greatest hits album.
Buck Owens & Merle Haggard are two sides of the same coin that was tossed into the Kern River 50 years ago and keeps finding its way back to the riverbank to be picked up and used to purchase a bit of truth.

The songs on this record are tiled in a way that we listen first to a Buck Owens song, then a Merle Haggard song, and so on until the end.

The Owens tunes are more light hearted with a touch of humor and an eye for commercial success.  In other words, they rock.

The Haggard songs are much more complex and heavy.  They are tales of disappointment, grief, personal losses, despair, and anger.
These are songs that, no matter how big and bad you are, when you listen to them in the middle of the night with a bottle of wine, you are going to have a tear in your eye.

Now let us move on to the performing artists.
After all the years and all of the awards, we know what we are going to get from Vince Gill.  Gill is one of the most talented and excellent artists in country music.  On this record his clear and bright voice does great justice to the styles and inflections of both Haggard and Owens.
The great surprise on this record for me was Paul Franklin.
To be honest, I have never heard such skill on a pedal steel guitar.
I have never been moved by such outpourings of emotion and outbursts of excitement from a steel guitar.  If the engineer had mixed out the vocals and all the other instruments on this record, I would still buy it just to hear him play.
Paul Franklin is a one man steel guitar symphony orchestra!

It took many years to collect and reproduce these songs.  My only wish is that Merle and Buck were still here with us to hear how well their work has been treated.  They would have been very proud and happy.

Bakersfield was released in 2013 by MCA Nashville.

Reviewed by Joe Kidd - JKSB Media LLC
for Country Music International Magazine
22 April 2017

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