With a nasal twang and a pair of jeans shrink-wrapped to his slinky pelvis, Dwight Yoakam plowed a furrow across conventional country, bringing back the Bakersfield sound. But for the past few years, he’s kept a low profile, going five years between Dwight Sings Buck and 2012’s 3 Pears. His latest, Second Hand Heart, makes up for the silence, demonstrating that Yoakam is back, stronger than ever.
One of Yoakam’s gifts is his ability to absorb slices of other musical genres without switching allegiances. There’s some Beach Boys style harmony going on in the chorus of the leadoff track, “In Another World.” Yoakam admits he was thinking of Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds when he composed it. But this is no surfing ode. Exploding out of the speakers, guitars chiming like a hillbilly call to worship, its Bakersfield cowpunk at its finest.
It’s a comeback of sorts- Yoakam hasn’t been out on the big time arena circuit for almost ten years. And when he did come back, it was as an opener -for Eric Church. The current album was cut mostly on off nights during that tour last fall, with Yoakam and the band (Brian Whelan, keys; Eugene Edwards, lead guitar; Jonathan Clark, bass; and drummer Mitch Marine.)
Even though it’s new material, the sound is vintage Yoakam. “She” is propelled by a Keith Richards guitar riff with Yoakam’s languid drawl draped over the top. There’s nothing mellow about Yoakam country- its wide open, balls to the wall honky-tonk.
Even when he takes the tempo down a bit on “Dreams Of Clay,” its still powerful stuff, the singer hiccup/sobbing over a weepy pedal steel melody that that has nuances of Elvis’ Suspicious Minds,’ Yoakam delivering the vocal in kingly fashion.
The title cut features two reluctant lovers circling each other, each wondering whether to give away their battered hearts one more time, eventually deciding to trust in love one more time. The lyrics are bitter sweet, but the singer’s not slumped over the bar awash in tears- he’s up and hollerin’ lustily about the outcome above the clatter of clanging guitars.
“Liar” is raucous, jangly rockabilly, Yoakam shouting like a rodeo cowboy atop a buckin’ bronc, barely able to hold on but loving every minute of the wild ride.
Yoakam describes his version of “Man Of Constant Sorrow” as “Bill Monroe meets the Ramones,” rattling along at breakneck speed buoyed by boiling guitars, spurred on by blood curdling hollers.
There’s nothing secondhand about this twangy array of shit-kickin’ wallopers and stompers. Fresh off the show room floor, its a shiny, custom made vehicle to take Yoakam back to the top of the country charts where he belongs.