Personnel: Terry Christoffersen (guitar); Jim Shaw (keyboards); Jim McCarty (drums).
Liner Note Authors: James Austin; Jim Shaw; Rich Kienzle.
Country music legend Buck Owens was one of the pioneers of the Bakersfield Sound, a lean, California-bred variant on classic honky tonk that merged the spunky energy of rock & roll with the cry-in-your-beer emotions of vintage country. Owens became one of country music's biggest stars in the '60s and '70s, racking up a long list of hits and starring on the long-running TV series Hee Haw, but when changing tastes and more polished sounds took over the country charts and put his career into neutral in the late '70s, Owens backed away from the spotlight, looking after the string of radio stations he owned and performing rarely. That changed in 1988, when friend and longtime fan Dwight Yoakam persuaded Owens to cut a duet with him on one of Buck's lesser-known tunes of the '70s. Yoakam's version of "Streets of Bakersfield" became a massive country hit, and a revitalized Owens assembled a new edition of his band the Buckaroos, resumed touring, and even cut a new studio album, Hot Dog. In January 1989, Owens and the Buckaroos rolled into San Francisco's Victoria Theater for his first show in the City by the Bay since 1967; When Buck Came Back! Live San Francisco 1989 is a raucous document of the San Francisco show, with Owens and his band playing a set of hits, rarities, and cuts from Hot Dog for a joyously rowdy audience. Owens is in good voice on this set, and if his instrument shows some wear in spots, his enthusiasm more than compensates, while the band kicks up a lot of dust tearing through these songs in classic Bakersfield style (and if they miss their step every once in a while, everyone seems to be having too much fun to care). A little bit ragged but very much right, When Buck Came Back! Live San Francisco 1989 shows Owens had plenty of gas left in the tank when he came back in the late '80s, and this is a rough, sweet set of top-shelf honky tonk music, Bakersfield style, that will give his fans a big smile. ~ Mark Deming