Dwight Yoakam's career is coming full circle, both in the business and melodic senses. Second Hand Heart, the country star's new album, out April 14th, marks his return to Reprise Records, the Warner Bros. imprint that released his first album, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc., nearly 30 years ago. Yoakam, who will perform on the Grammy Awards this Sunday with double nominee Brandy Clark, played the new album for the Reprise staff at the Warner Brothers' headquarters last week, also reminiscing about his early days spent at the Burbank, California, landmark. His vibrant new set harks back to those nascent days of cowpunk — the Los Angeles music scene from the mid-Eighties that Yoakam helped usher in alongside acts such as Lone Justice, Rank and File, and the Knitters — while also paying homage to such musical heroes as the Byrds, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
The album's retro-billy title track rings with infectious jangly guitars, a swaggering beat and Yoakam's instantly recognizable twang. The musician tells Rolling Stone Country he wrote the opening verse a couple of years ago with the expectation that it would be on 2012's acclaimed Three Pears. "I never finished it. It wasn't meant to be a part of that record and now I know why," he says. "It's its own statement, and it led this collection of songs in a way." (Listen to the world premiere of "Second Hand Heart" below.)
The lyrics roll out as an exchange between two weary warriors, whose bruised hearts have made them reluctant to enter love's battlefield again. "It's borne of a fictional conversation with somebody," says Yoakam, adding that the first line, "She said, 'When I trusted in love, I dreamed in color too,'" came to him out of the blue. "I remember [being] in my house, singing it out loud and I thought, 'Who is this and why did she say that?'. . . and staring off into space and thinking, 'Who's the poor guy who's obviously smitten with the idea of the two of them?'"
Yoakam leaves the pair cautiously willing to try once more. "There's a lot of that in the album, without it being by design, about surviving to relive hopefulness," he says.
Yoakam, who produced Second Hand Heart alongside Chris Lord-Alge, wrote eight of the album's 10 tracks. One of the only two outside songs is a rollicking new arrangement for "Man of Constant Sorrow," the traditional folk tune introduced to a new generation by the 2000 movie O Brother, Where Art Thou.
Track listing for Dwight Yoakam's Second Hand Heart:
"In Another World"
"Dreams of Clay"
"Second Hand Heart"
"Off Your Mind"
"Man of Constant Sorrow"
"The Big Time"
"V's of Birds"