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Dwight Yoakam – 3 Pears

on September 26, 2012, 7:59am

One night. That’s all Dwight Yoakam asks for on 3 Pears opener “Take Hold of My Hand”. “I’ve lusted for love, but lust is so blind,” he admits during the refrain. Yoakam’s 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 shouldn’t be there. She’s got a family at home, but instead, she’s 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 that’s 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 doesn’t. “Waterfall” has the charm of a children’s song (“If I had a big giraffe, he’d 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 Mine”—a dirty rocker played with garage-soul passion and an endearing sloppiness. It’s undoubtedly the album’s strongest track, mandating future collaborations between Beck and Yoakam.

The countrified Bakersfield sound—Yoakam’s bread-and-butter—is noticeably absent from 3 Pears. What can he add to a genre he’s spent 28 years mastering? Unshackled, Yoakam casually eschews his established sound for new ones, and although these pop experimentations won’t please country music fundamentalists or single-searching radio executives, Yoakam has legitimized himself as an artist. He could’ve easily churned out another Hillbilly Deluxe and satisfied thousands of boot scooting honky-tonkers. But he didn’t, and that’s why the genre-hopping 3 Pears is remarkable.

Essential Tracks: “Take Hold of My Hand”, “A Heart Like Mine”