Thursday, July 24, 2008
BUCK SHOT...FEEL THE BLAST!
Son of the Father, of Bakersfield Sound.
GET READY FOR A HURRICANE! (Top photo: By Dr. BLT, photo below by Dr. BLT; Roxie Thiessen photoshop, all other photos by Ray Harwood)
A city struggling to find a new identity, or maybe retrieve a lost glory, since they lost their soul; the architect of the Bakersfield Sound, Buck Owens. The Bakersfield sound was a genre of country music developed in the mid- to late 1950s in and around Bakersfield, California. Bakersfield country was a reaction against the slickly-produced, string orchestra-laden Nashville Sound, which was becoming popular in the late 1950s. Buck Owens and the Buckaroos and Merle Haggard and the Strangers are the most successful artists of the original Bakersfield sound era. Fender Telecaster "twang" with a driving beat!
Recently a large apportionment has been allotted to, restore North of the Kern River in Oildale, where much of the magic took place half a century ago. Included in the renovation is a giant mural of the Bakersfield sound; Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and the ghostly images of the dust bowl migration. Though many of the cities 322,500 Bakersfieldians don’t care, some even despise the legacy an older country acts such as Hank Ray, The Blackboard Playboys, and Dr. Bruce Thiessen play in dark corners of the Bakersfield night without much fan fair, the Buck Owens Crystal Palace remains somewhat of a tourist destination. Bakersfield needs a defibrillator, something to bring it back to life.
There has been a VERY slight swell in the tide of Bakersfield country music recently with, younger, local Punk and Metals bands picking up telecasters and playing a heavier revitalized Bakersfield sound, the anthem being “Streets of Bakersfield”, made popular by the classic duet of Buck Owens and Dwight Yokam, many years ago. In 2005 a young punk band called the Kookoonauts received a fair amount of airplay on the local station, KRAB radio with a cow-punk song called Searching, the guitar was defiantly “TWANG” and the driving drums numbed the indo-cranial cavities. The band was disbanded when the guitarist was badly beaten in one of the downtown venues on brutal streets of Bakersfield. The iron Outlaws are a fantastic Bakersfield country band with definite “Bad Religion’ overtones, especially with their tune “If I could only die for love”. We are sure to see huge things from them, and I am sure some young Bakersfield ladies have hung out wanted posters on these Iron Outlaws! As far as perpetuating the legacy of the Bakersfield sound, it is coming soon, like a tsunami on the horizon, and it is coming from the very house of Buck.
I had just gotten through touring all the old abandon Bakersfield Honkytonks from the golden age of “Nashville West” with Mr. Lloyd Reading, an alumnus of the 1930s “Blackboard craze”. When Lloyd’s daughter Anna told me her son was also into country music, this sparked more than just a flash interest and when I heard the bands demo the ink in my pen began to boil over. The band had so much drive, power and freshness it blew me away, I must have listened to it over and over a hundred times or more, and I am actually listening to it now as I put pen to paper. The band sounds to me like a cross between Alan Jackson and Social Distortion; with some Mavericks thrown in for good measure!
The name of the band is “Buckshot” and they are locked and loaded, fully loaded for buck, Buck that is, for one of the lead singers is John Owens, son of the father, of the Bakersfield Sound. John has been a hard working ranch hand and foreman on the Owens’ Horse Ranch for most of his life; he is the quintessential American Cowboy persona and carries himself in accordance. He is a caricature the west; speaks in a direct manner, he is reserved with facial expression and tone. When we first met, I couldn’t help reflecting on the 1993 western movie classic “Tombstone”; when the character Mr. Fabian (the young actor) stated to Josephine Marcus (as they exit the stage coach), when it first arrives in the dusty streets of Tombstone: “you've set your gaze upon the quintessential frontier type. Note the lean silhouette... eyes closed by the sun, though sharp as a hawk. He's got the look of both predator and prey”.
John Owens has none of attributes of a musician, save one; he has a voice bestowed on him from the father; his father, the father of the Bakersfield sound. Mr. Owens truly has the best country music voice I have ever heard.
Aside from his extraordinary voice, his band is the perfect mix of talent. Meeting the band was much like the David Allen Coe song; “Desperado's Waiting on a Train” , they area group of friends that like to hang out together and maybe share a frosty adult beverage, one day at the beach they discovered John had the Owens gift. David Allen, rhythm guitarist, whom started his music career when he got out of the Navy, plays a beautiful flamed Fender Telecaster. The Fender Telecaster is the guitar that defined the original “Nashville West” rebellion decades before. David, like all the members of the band are hard core Bakersfield born and bred, most are relatives of country royalty but they all kept it pretty close to the vest. Despite their country roots, all the band members came from an assortment of local heavy metal bands that have been shaking the walls of Bakersfield for the last decade. David traded in his beloved Fender Stratocaster for the telecaster for this new venture. When I asked David to describe “Buck Shots” music, he relaxed his arms over his Telecaster, turned his head toward the band and remarked: “You gotta look, we got a bunch of rock guys with an old school country guy so of course it’s going to have an edge, and it’s almost southern rock”.
Simon Faughn, as John Owens points out, is as far from country- in appearance- as a person could be; shaved head, Mr. Spock side burns, and two “sleeves” of tattoos down his arms. Simon sings lead along with John and their voices blend perfectly with each other. Simon describes his music relationship and influences with “Buckshot as such”: Once we start writing our own music, that’s when our real distinctive sound will emerge. Our roots will shine through; Hank III is my absolute favorite. The influential roots I pull from go way back, I like that old boon-docks –hillbilly-red neck sound, I LOVE THAT! John and I are the two lead singers and we go back and forth; he will highlight one song and then I’ll highlight the next and then we may do a duet.” Simon has played in many local metal bands over the years, in fact he is also concurrently in a popular metal band called 800LBS Gorilla, and where does and 800 lbs Gorilla sleep? Any where he wants to, even the world famous, Buck Owens ranch!
Mike Martin holds down the post of lead guitar and backup vocals, he sports a red white and blue Fender Telecaster in the tradition of Buck Owens, whose songs they cover so well. Mike screeches and twangs like the old masters and I am sure Buck would have approved. His vocal high notes are reminiscent of Buck's partner in rhyme, Don Rich. Like most of the dudes in the band Mike's family was steeped in the early Bakersfield music scene, his mother Anna was the one whom introduced us, his Grandfather, Lloyd Reading, was involved in the late 1930s honkytonk circuit.
The rhythm section of Buckshot is made up of DD Boutros on bass and Colby Swank on drums. They too came from “metal” backgrounds and sharpened their chops in Myndsick. Colby and DD create a wall of driving sound that sets the canvas for what is sure to be called a “new Bakersfield sound” masterpiece!
They started getting together and casually jamming at the Owens ranch, even today they say it is mostly for fun, from my perspective, phenomena.