DWIGHT YOAKAM (By Alain Dormoy)
Born 23 October 1956, Pikeville, Kentucky Yoakam is a bit of a curiosity in that he is played on the radios, makes the country charts and despite his cowboy-dandy looks is still regarded by most purists as a genuine and respected country artist.
The grandson of a coal miner, raised in Ohio, he took philosophy at college for a couple of years, then headed for Nashville in the 70's where he banged on doors for several years. His music was rated too country even for the Grand Ole Opry. He relocated in LA in 1978 where he played clubs for several years. Not country clubs though, as he refused to play top 40 country hits. He opened up for L.A. rock groups like Los Lobos and drove a truck to earn his living. That is when he started working with a guitarist named Pete Anderson who is still his producer and lead guitar player to this day. Their work combines the energy of original rock'n'roll with the Bakersfield sound of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. Dwight writes most of what he sings and definitely sounds like himself. He is unmistakably recognizable after just a couple of bars. Like Dale Watson, the country music he makes is a natural evolution from that of his predecessors, without being polluted by the Nashville marketers. As Johnny Cash put it in his autobiography, the likes of Yoakam are "keeping the traditions of country music alive while also pushing it into some very cool new places. They're not just trying to sound like George Jones and Lefty Frizzell, as too many other promising younger singers are doing."
His debut album, Guitars, Cadillacs, etc.., a mini LP with 6 titles - made in Hollywood rather than Music Row - caused considerable stir in Nashville in 1984 (it was reissued in 1986 with 4 new songs and an extra "etc." in the title). It was followed by 11 albums the latest of which "Population Me" was released just a few months ago. They are all excellent listen for my money, except maybe "La Croix D'amour" (Germany, 1992), which can hardly pass for a country album and "Under The Covers", in which (as the pun title suggests it) he covers earlier hits of rock stars, including a very disappointing version of Roy Orbison's "Claudette".
2 compilations: from the 80's: "Just Lookin' For A Hit" and from the 90's "Last Chance For A Thousand Years".
dwightyoakamacoustic (2000 Reprise), an outstanding solo rendition by Dwight - with just his acoustic guitar - of 25 of his past hits.
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