Here’s an interesting tidbit of country history, known mainly to old-school aficionados like me: besides Nashville, one of country’s biggest hotspots was once…Bakersfield.
From the late 1950s into the 1970s, Bakersfield, California formed a solid reputation for its particular take on Western Swing, known throughout the industry as the “Bakersfield Sound.” Local country icons Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, along with their bands, became the poster boys for the movement. In honor of that slice of music history, a couple of modern-day country legends—namely, Vince Gill and Paul Franklin—have put their own spin on a list of Owens and Haggard classics in a concept/tribute album known simply as Bakersfield.
Somewhat unique as a tribute record, Bakersfield doesn’t limit itself to the category of tribute album nor concept album, but functions freely within both labels. It is indeed a tribute, not just to one landscape-changing artist, but two; and the Gill/Franklin combo have sought to be true to the concept of the Bakersfield sound while somehow making it sound current—or more accurately, timeless. Between Gill’s smooth guitar and vocals and Franklin’s equally smooth pedal steel, we are transported back in time, but it still feels like today.
In short—it’s just plain good country music, old style. And apparently, country fans are picking up on it. While these kinds of records are usually understood to be “labors of love” that aren’t expected to chart highly, in fact Billboard reports that Bakersfield has debuted at Number 4 on the Top Country albums chart. Since SoundScan began tracking this stuff, only three other tribute or concept albums have debuted in the Top 5.
Vince Gill and Paul Franklin recently performed Buck Owens’ classic “Together Again” off the new record at the Grand Ole Opry. Have a look/listen at the video below.