Album Review: Vince Gill & Paul Franklin - Bakersfield
By: Matt Bjorke
Signed to MCA Nashville for many years, Vince Gill and the label briefly parted ways a few years back only to have Gill be invited to rejoin the label when the new management team took over. One of the most-awarded artists in Country Music history and a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and The Grand Ole Opry, Vince Gill certainly didn't need to return to major label land in order to continue making records like he's done since 2011's mighty fine Guitar Slinger (he joined The Time Jumpers in time for their 2012 self-titled Rounder album release) but that's exactly what he's done and he's brought along ace Steel guitar player Paul Franklin with him for a collection of tunes that honor the kings of Bakersfield Country music, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. The fact that MCA Nashville wanted to be in the Vince Gill business enough to release such a project is heartening.
Featuring 10 tracks (5 from Owens and 5 from Haggard) Bakersfield allows the duo to shine as musicians in addition to Vince Gill's superlative singing. Franklin and Gill both take their time on extended solos while the core band of Greg morrow, Willie Weeks, JT Corenfloss and John Hobbs are allowed to shine as well. Kenny Sears shreds his Fiddle on "Foolin' Around" while his wife Dawn Sears provides sterling harmonies throughout the record (both are in The Time Jumpers with Vince and Paul).
"Foolin' Around" is a perfect track to kick off the project as while it's a song about a guy who is missing his girl (and wants her to come home and fool around with him), it's still a jovial song. Haggard's "Branded Man" is simply fantastic and it's easy to see why Gill is held in such high esteem as Country Music royalty. He not only sings these songs with the reverence they deserve but he does so with an excited energy. Franklin's steel guitar playing often finds a place to shine in these songs, particularly on the fantastic "Together Again," and the little-known "He Don't Deserve You Anymore," a song that's one of two tracks on the album that are deep cuts from Owens catalog (the other is "But I Do," a track where the twin fiddles from Time Jumpers Joe Spivey and Larry Franklin shine along with Gill and Franklin's own instrumentals).
There's absolutely nothing about Bakersfield that isn't a treasure. Mainstream channels may not care much for this kind of music anymore but it's still as vibrant and fantastic as it has always been and in the loving hands of Vince Gill and Paul Franklin it shines once again. Here's hoping there will be more albums where Bakersfield comes from.