At 58 years old, Dwight Yoakam — the long-serving intellectual punk of country music — has just released his 14th studio album, Second Hand Heart. And last night, he dropped by NBC’s Late Night With Seth Meyers looking like a man half his age.
Performing “Liar” from the new set, Yoakam attacked the stage with youthful abandon, all swiveling hips and untamed attitude. Pants: still impossibly tight. Hat: still pulled low. And that hiccupping inflection on the end of almost every phrase: still one of a kind.
Kicking things off with a wicked hillbilly yelp, “Liar” is a blazing countrified blues stomper written about a game-playing lover, a return to the straight-ahead brashness of 1986’s Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.
But have no fear for Yoakam’s heart. He recently told Rolling Stone Country he doesn’t write about personal experience.
“I didn’t sit down and say, ‘Well, so this has happened to me today,'” he said. “I’m not a journal keeper and never have been. I have random thoughts and interactions in my personal life that become catalyst for song ideas, but then that’s where the journalizing stops. It is, basically, a thematic catalyst. What’s really important is that they live beyond me. Hopefully, it speaks in a more universal way.”
(Yes, Yoakam used the phrase “thematic catalyst” — which is completely normal for him.)
The singer-songwriter has always seemed to have a sixth sense for what’s hip — especially onstage — but as he gets older and country moves forward, he just gets cooler.
Quoting the 1974 film Chinatown, he explained why to Rolling Stone Country: “‘Well, you know, Jake, what they say: Ugly buildings, politicians and whores all get respectable if they last enough.’ So, you know, even rebellious upstarts get respectable if they last long enough.”