The Don Rich collection definitely reaches the heights of the live CD. It’s a 24-song retrospective featuring songs recorded when the late guitarist/fiddler was the instrumental hero of Buck Owens’ band. There’s lots of stuff here you’d expect. Killer instrumentals like “Buckaroo,” with its familiar jangly chordal work and chordal hammer-ons. There’s “Chaparral” with its short staccato bursts and chiming arpeggios. “Pickin’ Nickin'” and “Chicken Pickin'” have that stuttering effect so many guitarists have worked into their trick bags. You think Pete Anderson heard this stuff? Anyway, there’s plenty of that.
If fiddle tunes are your deal, there’s plenty of those, from the familiar (“Orange Blossom Special”) to the not-so-familiar (“Tumwater Breakdown”). One thing that might surprise casual Buckeroo listeners is some dazzling acoustic work. “Buckersfield Breakdown” is a fiddle tune with a killer acoustic break that has its own sense of style and shows off some killer technique. Same goes for the likes of “Country Pickin’.”
Other highlights include “Aw, Heck” which is pretty much signature Don Rich with its sharp, crisp single-lines and double-stops and stuttering chickin’ pickin’. Throw in some nice straight country vocals by Don, and you can see why he is so respected by the likes of Marty Stuart, Merle Haggard, John Jorgenson, Pete Anderson, and of course Buck Owens, all of whom contribute to the liner notes. Owens even relates, to no great surprise, that Rich’s death in a 1975 motorcycle accident killed his musical life. The joy was gone, according to the notes.
No country guitarist worth his salt should be without this stuff. Great job again, Sundazed.
This review originally appeared in VG‘s Apr. ’01 issue.