Dwight Yoakam is tying up the last years of his 50s, and has been making records for three of those decades. Given that, it’s a bit ironic that he is managing to be one of the freshest, most cutting-edge artists in country music. His 2012 set, Three Pears, marked a return to the studio after a five-year absence; it critically racked up a (highly rare) A+ report card across the board. Now, he’s poised to release Second Hand Heart, a follow-up that’s stirring up comparisons to his 1986 honky-tonk soaked debut.
That outlaw edge, of course, is one of a number of currently hot trends in Nashville. Yoakam’s take on the sound, however, sounds effortless, boundlessly creative, and completely unselfconscious; caring not one whit whether it fits any trend whatsoever. And, by way of that, sounding far more daring than anything currently being released.
“My entire career has not been anticipating what will be commercial,” Yoakam explains. “It’s about doing what I find exciting musically and what will entertain me musically.”
That said: “I think there’s a sense of immediacy about this record,” he notes. “Thats is why folks are responding to it being a return or coming full circle to how I began…energetically it has to do with the spontaneity of the scene that I broke out, which they used to call cowpunk here in LA in the early ’80s.”
Second Hand Heart not only employs vintage Yoakam vibes, it also incorporates some of his musical influences, such as the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. “California’s not a literal theme on this record but it’s certainly the musical influence that drew me here in the first place.It’s not a literal album about California, but it certainly is musically.”
Yoakam also drew upon classic influences, such as the Beatles, for 3 Pears, and explains that he feels he’s continuing the vibe with his new album. “I ended up kind of completing the thought of 3 Pears with this record,” he adds. “3 Pears was a catalyst for where I went with this album.”
Between the two albums, Yoakam’s sound is likely going to capture an entire new generation of country fans — ones who are seeking something different from the current crop of radio hits available. Yoakam is optimistic that both new and old fans alike will enjoy the tunes. “The entire record, Second Hand Heart, I hope it’s something that captures the imagination of the new audience that has arrived for country music,” he says.
“Hopefully this new material is discovered by not only the new audience for country music but the traditional audience for country music.”
Overall, Yoakam has the most enviable position an artist can boast: “To still be able to make my living and be able to perform this music…it really does feel like a lucky continuing stream of events for me in my life,” he reflects.
“From then to now I don’t regret anything about the records I’ve made and that’s a really fortunate statement to be able to make on my part.”