If there’s one thing we were reminded of in 2016 (other than the fact that we live in a country where 1/2 of our voting population chose an orange psychopath for president, but that’s another story), it’s that our legends are not immortal. Luckily, the music itself is – hence why the art of the cover band has become such an omnipresent institution in Nashville. On any given night, there’s a tribute here, another tribute there, and that’s because this is a town that truly values good songs, never wanting to see them subjected to the fragility that is human life, ephemeral as it is.
Bakersfield’s Buck Owens passed away in 2006, leaving behind one of our most storied country catalogues, one that Nashville’s Buck N Stuff (talented local players Adam Kurtz, Cameron Carrus and Lemuel Hayes) keeps alive with just the right amount of twang-in-cheek and plenty of rock n roll swagger. This month, they’ve taken up residency at American Legion Post 82 every Thursday, recording a live album along the way. For their Nashville Five, they elected to choose their favorite Buck Owens covers, appropriately.
Catch them tonight and again next Thursday at American Legion Post 82 in East Nashville.
Nashville Five /// Buck N Stuff
Obviously we take our Buck Owens covers seriously. Buck Owens songs are timeless yet simple, and a great Owens cover allows the performer to put something of themselves into the tune. Merely copying and pasting is no fun! Here are our top 5 Buck Owens covers:
- “A-11” by Johnny Paycheck
A-11 was first recorded by Buck Owens in 1964, but Paycheck’s hit version is the definitive version. The song, which cleverly references a jukebox selection but never says what that selection is, also is unique because it doesn’t ever go to the 5. That is, until Paycheck’s version which adds a descending turnaround line that does briefly hit the 5. That’s called innovation, folks, innovation you can take all the way to the bank. Paycheck also amended the lyrics to add the word “jukebox” and other improvements. One might called him a Jukebox hero, and that’s why he gets on this list. Also, Buck N Stuff does a killer version of A-11, turning it into an epic reggae jam.
One might argue that without Buck Owens, the Beatles would still be hustling the bar scene in Liverpool. One would be dead wrong, but it’s a salient argument that is worthy of consideration. The Beatles version of Act Naturally did expose Buck Owens music to a much larger audience however. Their version is pretty straight forward, but for the ballsy and controversial decision to have Ringo sing it. He does a good job though, and for that he was rewarded one song on every subsequent Beatles record. Thanks to Buck! Buck N Stuff’s version of Act Naturally is a head bopping rocker with crazy modulations that would make Ringo go back behind the drums.
- “Crying Time” by Ray Charles
This tear jerker of a song has been covered a lot, but Ray Charles’s version is pure magic and soul. Pretty much every time Ray crossed over into the country catalogue he hit gold, but his Crying Time may be the cream of the crop. A hat tip to local Nashvillian Bill Eberle for also doing a kick ass version of Crying Time on his 2016 Ashes EP. The Buck N Stuff version gets fairly gnarly and bluesy; those aren’t tears because of crying time, it’s sweat from your brow.
- “Together Again” by The Time Jumpers
Vince Gill and Paul Franklin teamed up for a tribute to Bakersfield artists Buck Owens and Merle Haggard in 2013, and though the record is fairly straightforward, they’ve added Together Again to their Time Jumpers set every time they play. Hearing Paul Franklin play the steel solo to Together Again never gets tired, as he has become now the definitive pedal steelist for this tune. You owe it to yourself to see the Time Jumpers at 3rd and Lindsley if just for this song; you also owe it to yourself to hear Buck N Stuff’s blisteringly bluesy version of Together Again.
- “Excuse Me (I Think I’ve Got a Heartache)” by Cake
Cake is one of those bands that has such a distinctive style that as soon as you hear a Cake song you’ve never heard before, you still know it’s Cake. On their 2005 B Sides and Rarities album, they do a fantastic Cake-version of Buck’s Excuse Me (I Think I’ve Got a Heartache). Sick guitar solo, great feel, this is a great cover. Almost as good as Buck N Stuff’s psychedelic and drum fill-filled version!