One night. Thats all Dwight Yoakam asks for on 3 Pears opener Take Hold of My Hand. Ive lusted for love, but lust is so blind, he admits during the refrain. Yoakams nasally croon has gotten raspier with age, but he remains a bastion of coolness in a country music industry plagued by Taylor Swifts and Toby Keiths. Yoakam cares about songwriting: He borrows from other genres, grows weary of repetition, and denies the quick buck. 3 Pears was born from those characteristics.
On Dim Lights, Thick Smoke, he takes us to a honky-tonk dive bar, where we meet a married woman who probably shouldnt be there. Shes got a family at home, but instead, shes drinking and flirting and line dancing. Yoakam is blunt: At home the little children, mean nothing to you/ A house filled with love and a husband thats true. This is a traditional, oft-covered country song, though Yoakam turns it into his own feisty scorcher. His guitar has never sounded so abrasive.
Yoakam tries beat music, cowpunk, and power pop on 3 Pears. Most of it works, some of it doesnt. Waterfall has the charm of a childrens song (If I had a big giraffe, hed have to take a real long bath), but its minimalist arrangement is dreary and unengaging. The pace quickens on the Beck-produced A Heart Like Minea dirty rocker played with garage-soul passion and an endearing sloppiness. Its undoubtedly the albums strongest track, mandating future collaborations between Beck and Yoakam.
The countrified Bakersfield soundYoakams bread-and-butteris noticeably absent from 3 Pears. What can he add to a genre hes spent 28 years mastering? Unshackled, Yoakam casually eschews his established sound for new ones, and although these pop experimentations wont please country music fundamentalists or single-searching radio executives, Yoakam has legitimized himself as an artist. He couldve easily churned out another Hillbilly Deluxe and satisfied thousands of boot scooting honky-tonkers. But he didnt, and thats why the genre-hopping 3 Pears is remarkable.
Essential Tracks: Take Hold of My Hand, A Heart Like Mine