Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

cover art

Dwight Yoakam


When Dwight Yoakam returned to the stage for an encore last summer in Seattle he came by himself, carrying an acoustic guitar. He’d done a riveting three song solo acoustic turn mid-set, which included a turbo-charged “Mystery Train,” and no-one seemd to mind a bit when he came back out without his band, the Babylonian Cowboys, for another five song solo set. As he finished up with “Buenas Noches From A Lonely Room,” a murder ballad all the more chilling for the spare accompaniment, the fella sitting next to me leaned over and said, “Man, I could listen to this all night.” Well, with the release of, a solo acoustic album that clocks in at a whopping 78 minutes, he now has the chance. It may be both more and less than he bargained for.

Yoakam is arguably the finest hard country singer of his generation, he certainly makes the short-list, and among those rare contemporary country performers who’s also an ace songwriter., just the man and his Gibson revisiting 25 songs from his catalog (save for the gutty slide guitar of long-time running mate Pete Anderson that embellishes “Little Sister,” which also happens to be the only song not written by Yoakam, though he’s long since made it as much his own as Elvis’), distills Yoakam to his honky-tonk singer/songwriter essence.

Stripped to bare bones, the sharpest songs in his book—“Buenas Noches,” “Two Doors Down,” “Sad, Sad Music,” “This Drinkin’ Will Kill Me”—owe no apologies to the country canon, and his performance none to precursors Frizzell and Haggard. But, as fine as they are, it’s hard to hear how these versions, or Yoakam’s re-takes on things like “Lonesome Roads” or “Throughout All Time,” or “Nothing’s Changed Here,” or most anything else in the set if you get right down to it, improve on the originals. Only “Fast As You,” and “Little Sister,” both reworked as slow blues burns, really profit from their return to the studio.

And what works well live in a short set, thanks in no small measure to the charisma of the singer and heat of the moment, wears a might thin spread over 78 minutes on disc. would pack more punch were it a more economical, discriminating set that left the listener desiring another song rather checking his watch. Was it really necessary to re-record eight of the 10 tracks from his second record, Hillbilly Deluxe? Sometimes more really is less.

Yoakam has put out but one record of new material, A Long Way Home, since the release of Gone in 1995 (at that time his sixth studio album in nine years). Since Gone he’s also served up an ill-advised album of rock/pop covers (Under the Covers), a Christmas record, a hits of the ‘90s package (Last Chance for a Thousand Years), and, now, an acoustic reworking of previously recorded material. Yoakam evidently has the clout with Reprise to release anything he wants at his stage in his career, which is no bad thing for him, and perhaps he’s earned the right to coast. The faint odor of pure product that clings to is apparently what that right costs his fans.

Tagged as: dwight yoakam
Related Articles
10 Dec 2013
There's no reason not to pick this one up if you’re looking for a tight compilation of recent music from one of the greats. As a document of a transitional period in Yoakam’s lengthy career, it works well.
By Dave Heaton, Jedd Beaudoin, Josh Langhoff, Steve Leftridge
6 Dec 2012
In 2012, you could be forgiven for being dismissive of the country music genre entirely -- to a point. For as long as country exists as a genre, there will be songwriters who are devoted to embodying their own vision of what “country” means, which sometimes means pushing the genre around.
By Lester Feder
1 Nov 2007
All country fans -- all those who are moved by America's restless spirit -- should thank Dwight Yoakam for reviving Buck Owens' soul.
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks

© 1999-2015 All rights reserved.™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.