Dwight Yoakam-What’s Gold Is New Again

Cover Aug 6, 2010

By Lenny Stoute

Country music’s renaissance cowboy Dwight Yoakam is back on the tour circuit and kicking it hard. The man from Pikeville, Kentucky’s assembled a mighty touring unit and is setting fans afire from Austin to Salinas. The set’s about to become hotter come August 24 when Dwight’s newest compilation Top Ten (New West) drops.

The tracks are drawn from the golden age of Dwight Yoakam, circa 1986-1993 and there’s not a dog in the lot. They also offer a timely reminder on the almighty impact Yoakam’s sound had on the direction of country music. Sporting painted-on jeans, Manuel jackets, a low-slung white Stetson and a punchy, authentic hillbilly sound, Dwight Yoakam rocked into the mainstream with a girl catching swagger, then turned around and moved the traditionalists over to his side with his evocative song writing and electrifying performances.

From the guitar riff of his very first single “Honky Tonk Man” off his very first album Guitars, Cadillacs, etc., etc; the dude was serving notice we were in the presence of something special. Twenty fours years later Top Ten rightly kicks off with the title track and Honky Tonk Man, from that genre bustin’ debut.

It became the first of three in a row No. 1 Billboard Country Albums for Yoakam and thrust him into the national spotlight.. "Honky Tonk Man" peaking at No. 3 on the country charts and "Guitars, Cadillacs" at No. 4. It also marked the begining of a collaboration with Texan record producer/guitarist Pete Anderson, known for his signature twangy guitar work, that would last for more than a dozen albums.

The album was re-issued on October 17, 2006, complete with demos from 1981 and tracks recorded live at the Roxy in 1986.
"You're the One" was one of five singles that 1990’s If There Was a Way would yield, charting the highest of all at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles. Its placement at this point in the album is a clever choice as it works as an emotional bookend for “Little Ways” Here it’s payback time as the song's narrator describes how his former lover treated him like buffalo turds and now she's tasting the same treatment that she dished on him.
Of special interest is Dwight’s hit duet, "Send a Message to My Heart", sung with fellow Pikeville, Kentucky native Patty Loveless.The album peaked at No. 7 on the Country Albums chart.

"Ain't That Lonely Yet " is one of three tracks off 1993’s This Time, the fifth album from the Bakersfield bard to go to No.2 and stall shy of the top spot. The following track "Fast as You." is another and together they carry on the hurtin’ songs flow. “Ain’t” has our loverboy gloating just a little at his ex-honey’s dilemma, ‘cause after what she put him through, he ain’t that lonely yet. “Fast As You” puts him back right back on the burner but he’s been there before and he’s conming up strong with the chorus “ Maybe I’ll be fast as you/Maybe I’ll break hearts too/But I think that you’ll slow down/ When your turn to hurt comes around/Maybe I’ll break hearts and be as fast as you”.

What saves this from going all arrogant and over the top is flashy guitar work and a slick rhythm section peopled by band stalwarts Jeff Donavan on drums and bassist Taras Prodaniuk, with swing band texture from Charles Domanico’s upright bass. This Time marks the first album on which Yoakam wrote or co-wrote all except for one of its tracks.

"A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” was the album’s third single to go No. 2 and appears elsewhere on Top Ten. That’s likely to make space in the flow for “Heart That You Own”, off 1990’s If There Was A Way album. Similar in style and delivery from its two immediate predecessors, it moved Dwight back into the good loving position with a good woman to celebrate with lyrics like; “ I pay rent on a run-down place/There ain't no view/But there's lots of space in my heart /The heart that you own/ I pay the rent, pay it right on time baby”.

It’s the most uptempo of the trio and the band is stretching out and letting it roll, with extra toppings of fun from guests Tom Brumley on steel guitar, Lenny Castro’s shookup percussion work and cheeky fiddle strokes and mandolin tropes from Scott Joss.

"A Thousand Miles from Nowhere" was featured as the closing credits music for the film Red Rock West, in which Dwight Yoakam also made his movie acting debut. It hit No.2 on the singles charts with a bullet as it was a throwback to Yoakam’s countrybilly roots. Hooked to a haunting melody and Yoakam’s spot-on, Gospel tinged vocals, it went on to have a radio life far longer than whichever song had beaten it to No.1. Its link to the move brought Yoakam once again squarely back into the mainstream spotlight.

The final pair of tracks closing out the album hails from the boundary-pushing Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room, Yoakam’s fusion album wherein he and Anderson took the country home Tex-Mex style. It became his third consecutive No. 1 Billboard Country Album and yielded his first two No.1 appearances on the singles charts, "Streets of Bakersfield," a duet with country music icon Buck Owens, and Yoakam's own composition, "I Sang Dixie."

“I Sang Dixie”s tale of a Southern drifter dying in the narrator’s arms on a filthy L.A. streetcorner , delivered in a stately cadence, is a throwback all the way to Yoakam’s musical childhood.

“I was raised in a congregational church called Church of Christ, and we sang a capella. It had a profound impact on my life, 'cause some of my earliest memories are sitting around with my family, opening hymnbooks and singing. Those things were all part of the menagerie of sounds I heard growing up.”

Likewise, the closer "Streets of Bakersfield," is a finely drawn narrative steeped in Yaokam’s experiences in his early California days. Of which he says: " What drew me there wasn't about specific songs. It was the increased degree that California's country performers doing the Bakersfield Sound, were allowing rock and roll into country music. I felt there was a chance to open up country to more people”.

Dwight Yoakam brings the brilliant gems of Top Ten and a whole lotta other good stuff to the Rideau Carleton Raceway in Ottawa, ON tonight (Aug.6), Way Out West Festival in Huntsville, ON (Aug.8), Casino Rama in Rama, ON (Aug.19) and the Havelock Jamboree in Havelock, ON (Aug.20).