It was a little over a year ago that I recieved a record from New Light Records and what I heard was a stunning vocalist singing a sturdy collection of Texas inflicted country music. Buck Jones was a classically trained vocalist from Houston who managed to make friends with Billy Block and Walt Wilkins (among others). I loved the record immensely and previously wrote a review of the album for AboutCountry around it’s release date of August 29, 2006. Tragedy struck on May 17, 2007 when Buck was struck and killed by a hit-and-run drunk driver after his own vehicle’s tire had blown out. This would be deemed a tragedy if buck were just a country music star but the man also had a wife and a young son to take care of. This new review of the record is going to serve as a tribute to the man and hopefully shed some more light on an artist foolishly taken way before his time.
Buck’s “Lucky Star” starts off with the rollicking “Whatever California Brings” and the song walks the line of being a mainstream country hit and a spirited Texas country track. The following track “Jack Daniels Turns To Tears” is a fine fiddle and punchy, twangy, guitar-filled honky tonkin’ track while Steven Fromholz’s “Late Night Neon Shadows” helps to make this record firmly rooted in Texas country and pretty much far removed from mainstream music (and “Shadows” alludes to this fact).
In an eerie coincidence, Buck recorded the late Walter Hyatt‘s gem “Going To New Orleans.” For those of you who don’t remember, Walter died all-too-soon when The ValuJet airlines flight he was on crashed over the Florida Everglades. For the first time on this record Buck Jones got to stretch his vocals out a bit and show why he was on a scholarship for Opera while attending college. It’s a slow-buring ode to New Orleans that I originally though was just the kind of song that makes for a stirring tribute to the beleagured city. Now I think this song serves as the touchstone for this fine album.
“You Only Call Me When I’m Drunk” was the only song released (on a bigger scale) to radio and it’s a song that reminds me of something out of the Mark Chesnutt or Joe Nichols catalogs. It’s a strong honky tonk song that features some sly humor in the chorus. “Cross That River” flourishes with Tex-Mex styled instrumentals while “These Days” fearures strong mandolin work along with a Walt Wilkins’ like lyrical genius. Here this song Buck showed off his strong vocal as well. Walt Wilkins co-produced the record for Buck and he provided duet vocals on the fun “Everything’s Cool.”
“Houston Town” is has that cool Bob Wills Texas swing style to it that’s very familiar to listen to and aside from Buck’s stellar vocal the song featured some great fiddle and steel guitar solos (the song is also a Walter Hyatt-penned track). “Gonna Be Alright” and “Lightning Strike Me Down” end the record on a very high note. “Alright” finds Jones really stretchng his vocal while “Lightning” finds Buck singing over a more mainstream melody about a guy who’s trying to make his way in the world any way he knows how. Sadly the title of the song proved to come true in the form of that 1997 Chevy pick-up truck.
Buck Jones was a wonderfully gifted singer who was born to sing. He’s proof that life’s too short to not go for our dreams even if it flies in the face of what other people believe we should be doing (in Buck’s case that would be an opera singer). Buck did live his dream and was able to see the birth of his son before his death as well. Sadly all the little boy will have to remember his father by are some pictures, videos and this lone record. Hopefully you’ll feel inclined to donte to the memorial fund set up to help Buck’s wife and son try to live as normal a life they can. That fund can be reached at www.buckjonesmusic.com and you can hear his music at www.myspace.com/youonlycallmewhenyouredrunk.