Bakersfield by Vince Gill & Paul Franklin

Vince Gill is not just a vocal advocate for traditional country music—he’s practicing what he preaches. His latest album, titled Bakersfield, pairs him with the renowned pedal-steel player Paul Franklin for a delightful 10-song set that’s all covers of the California city’s favorite country sons, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.

Vince—one of Nashville’s unsung guitar heroes—plays lead guitar on the album in addition to singing, even picking up some of Buck’s vocal idiosyncracies on “Foolin’ Round” and “Together Again.”

Paul’s masterful steel playing gets equal billing, answering Vince’s Telecaster with dazzling flourishes on Merle’s “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down.”

The collection was recorded in two days by a crack band including some of The Time Jumpers at Vince’s home studio and retains the Bakersfield Sound’s trademark rawness, twang and swing. It’s all thoroughly enjoyable, if not flawless.

The six-minute-long “Holding Things Together” does drag a little, and the hyperpatriotic Merle No. 1 “Fightin’ Side of Me” feels weirdly out of place and behind the times. But for the most part, the redeeming thing about Bakersfield is how, in spite of the album’s throwback theme, it succeeds in sounding incredibly modern and relevant by refusing to chase the trends.

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