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Garden Grove, California

Pat DiNizio—Buddy Holly (Koch) 

We’re coming up on 50 years since The Day the Music Died (Feb. 3, 1959) when Buddy Holly and others were killed in an Iowa plane crash. As two vault busting releases (Memorial Collection, Down the Line—Rarities) commemorate the event this week, Smithereens leader Pat DiNizio pays tribute with his own excellent covers collection. You can tell it was a labor of love for the singer/guitarist, who considers Holly a major influence, once wrote a tune about Holly’s widow (“Maria Elena”), owns Holly’s original tape recorder and uses Holly replica guitars made by Fender. Most tracks here are orchestrated like the innovative Texas rocker’s posthumous top 20 single “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.” DiNizio’s low vocal register gives the songs more dramatic heft (“True Love Ways,” “Raining in My Heart”). The Encore Chamber String Quartet’s updated arrangements—overseen by former 4 Seasons member Charles Calello—add a newfound warmth (“Words of Love,” “Well . . . Alright”). Sixties pop idol Bobby Vee (whose band replaced Holly on the ’59 Winter Dance Party Tour) does some buoyant harmonies on “Listen to Me” and an a capella take on “That’ll Be the Day” ends everything on a smile-inducing note. (George A. Paul)

Pat DiNizio: Pat DiNizio/Buddy Holly