Harlan Howard wrote many of Buck Owens’ biggest hits and best songs, including “I’ve Got A Tiger By the Tail,” “Above and Beyond,” “Excuse Me (I Think I’ve Got A Heartache),” and “Under the Influence of Love,” so it’s only natural that Buck recorded an entire album of Howard’s material. And it’s also not surprising that it’s a stunner, too. Owens sang Howard better than nearly anybody and Buck Owens Sings Harlan Howard is full of wonderful songs and performances. Only “Foolin’ Around” is regularly featured on Buck’s hit compilations, which means there’s a wealth of lesser-known gems — including “Heartaches By the Number,” “Pick Me Up on Your Way Down,” “Keys in the Mailbox” and “Let’s Agree to Disagree” — that form the core of this record, one of Owens’ most enjoyable LPs of the ’60s.
It took the Sundazed label a while to reissue this one on CD. They did the Buck Owens Capitol catalog back in the 1990s and did a stellar job, but this one they waited on. Perhaps it was best. In 2003 there were far more people interested in country gospel again. But this is no ordinary country gospel album. This isn’t the Carters or the Louvins. This is honky tonk country gospel done Bakersfield style. Owens toned down his Buckaroos approach not a bit to record this. If anything, in listening to the opener, “Pray Every Day,” or “When Jesus Calls All His Children In” or “Bring It to Jesus” or the rollicking “Would You Be Ready,” the slippery guitar and pedal steel-heavy arrangements make this record feel more like a late-night barroom drinking and dancing set than something to be played for church. And that makes perfect sense. Didn’t Jesus come to call sinners and not the righteous? What better way than to have the careening sound of the Buckaroos as a soundtrack for salvation? Dust on Mother’s Bible is one of the great Buckaroos albums and once again displays Owens’ singular place in the pantheon of country music.
-Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Thom Jurek, allmusic.com