Music Review: Dwight Yoakam – 3 Pears [Warner Bros.]

It’s been seven long years since Dwight Yoakam’s last proper release, 2005’s Blame the Vain. Since then he of painted-on jeans and low-hanging Stetson has done some acting – most notably the opening scene in  The Wedding Crashers and as the manic Doc Miles in the hilariously over-the-top Crank films. Yoakam has done some music producing an an excellent tribute to his mentor Buck Owens, but for the most part, for a man you couldn’t escape in his heyday, Yoakam’s been MIA.

His newly released album 3 Pears neatly connects a path of trajectory Yoakam’s career. The road he’s been traveling since the early 80’s L.A. cow-punk scene where he was perfected his craft in clubs like Club Lingerie and The Roxy opening for local bands like The Blasters and Los Lobos. Almost as soon as he set foot on SoCal soil Yoakam became part actor – taking the cowboys imagery from 60s films like Paul Newman’s Hud and Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns, and part honk-tonk disciple – taking his sound from the 50s Bakersfield sound of Merle Haggard and his mentor Buck Owens. Yoakam always appeared assured and to be a man embodying s place he had planned to be all along.

3 Pears has all the trademarks you’d expect of a Yoakam work. Skillful performances within taught arrangements The hillbilly vocals topped-off with a hiccup finish. The swagger that won him legions of fans. All here without a skip or a a thought to ape modern trends. Even where on paper you’d think he might be a buckling toward commercial pressures –  like inviting Kid Rock to co-write the album opener Take Hold of My Hand – with it’s brash bass moving toward a spirited sock-hop snap resulting in no discernible trace of Rock’s Southern /classic rock regurgitation influence at all.

Waterfall is a lingeringly paced cut skirting between whimsey and DaDa showing Yoakam’s not afraid to throw out the classic handbook of country music themes. The song achieves a level of absurd imagery that would make Roger Miller smile. ” If I had a waterfall, It might not make no sense at all, But that won’t matter much to you and me.’

Yoakam shows his Guitars, Cadillacs Etc. Etc. roots with Joe Maphis’ honky-tonk take on the Honky-Tonk angel theme  Dim Lights, Thick Smoke, which was also extensively covered by The Flying Burrito Brothers. Yoakam’s Trying moves into sweet Memphis soul territory with a “Dock of the Bay” vibe and a lovely Wurlitzer accompaniment.

Indy rocker Beck co-produces two tracks; the bittersweet Missing Heart is great rendition of a classic pedal steel weeper but Mr Hanson’s pastiche sensibilities are most apparent on A Heart Like Mine with it’s guitar lick echoing I’m a Believer from one of Yoakam’s stylistic influences, the Monkees.  ” The slow rocking Rock It All Away cribs a bit close the melody of The Who’s  Baba O’Riley for me to just enjoy the song on it’s own merits.

Yoakam is nothing if not the American ideal of the self-made man and 3 Pears proves that  we are all, ultimately,  a product of his influences. Yaokam has taken those influences and composed one of the best albums of his career.

Choice cuts – Dim Lights, Thick Smoke , Wateerfall , Trying

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