CD Review: Don Rich – Sings George Jones (Omnivore, 2013)
Though Don Rich achieved greatness as Buck Owens’ band leader, guitarist, fiddler, harmony vocalist and musical foil, his solo stardom stayed on the backburner. An anthology of his instrumental and vocal turns with the Buckaroos was issued in 2000, but his only true solo album was shelved after its recording in 1970. As with the anthology, this first-ever release of Rich’s turn in the spotlight shows him to be a warm vocalist, perhaps not quite as polished a lead or as star-ready as Owens, but distinct, compelling and certainly worthy of some early ‘70s chart action. Produced by Owens in his Bakersfield studio, and backed by the 1970 edition of the Buckaroos (including Rich, Buddy Alan Owens, Jim Shaw, Doyle Curtsinger and Jerry Wiggins), the sound is much the same as Owens’ own recordings of the era.
The song list sticks mostly to Jones’ familiar hits of the early-to-mid-1960s, though it reaches back to 1957 for “Too Much Water.” Rich sings his own harmonies, but the doubled vocals sound remarkably like the Owens-Rich (or Owens-Owens) combination heard on the Buckaroos recordings. Supplementing the album’s original ten tracks are four more Jones covers originally recorded for Hee Haw and featuring Buck Owens singing lead. Neither Rich nor Owens sing anything like Jones, nor do the Buckaroos sound like a Nashville band, all of which help liberate these songs from Jones’ long artistic shadow. As with Omnivore’s companion volume of Buck Owens’ recordings for Hee Haw, this vault find is a welcome discovery and a real treat for fans of Don Rich, Buck Owens and the Buckaroos.