As usual, Bear Family Records dove deep for its 10-CD set The Bakersfield Sound: 1940-1974, introducing a wide range of talents with ties to the California town and uncovering rarities by its best-known exports: Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. The collection arrives on Aug. 2.
Some artists included became associated with other regions and subgenres, including Nashville Sound crooner Ferlin Husky. Today, Wide Open Country premieres "(A Pretty Woman Is a) Deadly Weapon," an early Husky tune, recorded under the stage name Terry Preston. It demonstrates a raw, West Coast sound, predating such radio-friendly hits as country-gospel standard "Wings of a Dove."
"It appeared on the 4-Star label right around the time Ferlin was relocating to Bakersfield," says author, podcast host and Bakersfield Scott Bomar. "He'd soon become the first Bakersfield-based artist to sign with Capitol Records, which would go on to open to the door for Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and many others."
Don't let the title scare you off. Husky counters the sweeping claim and shoulders the blame for his own carnal weakness with a final admission: "I've known a lot of 'deadly weapons,' but there's still a lot of life in me."
Husky's not the only future legend with an early career cut included in the set. Other "before they were famous" tracks include the first single by Barbara Mandrell and the earliest-known demo by Jan Howard.
Per a press release, the anthology begins with 1940s field recordings of migrants. The inclusion of live takes, deep cuts and unreleased songs by local legends and transcendent stars should appeal to collectors uninterested in once again repurchasing "Together Again" or "Mama Tried."
The sprawling box set includes a 220-page book, featuring in-depth analysis from Bomar about featured artists, ranging from influential guitarist Tommy Collins and trucker song legend Red Simpson to folk-rocker Arlo Guthrie, and an introduction by Foo Fighters guitarist and Americana solo artist Chris Shiflett.