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Kickin' In

Owens was one of country music’s top cornballs in the 1960’s, turning out 21 No. 1 records. His recording career fell off sharply, though, when he became the cohost of TV’s Hee Haw, and he stopped making records almost entirely until Dwight Yoakam dragged him out of retirement in 1988. This new album happily finds Owens in decent vocal form. But as the father of the stripped-down ”Bakersfield Sound” — characterized by screaming steel guitars, shrieking fiddles, and high harmony vocals — on Kickin’ In, Owens sounds curiously entrenched in the Nashville way of cutting albums, settling for a softer instrumental approach. He also makes do with a passel of songs that rarely matches the fire and the hard truths of his timeless classics.

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