Dwight Yoakam. At the Chumash Casino, Friday, September 8
Reviewed by Brett Leigh Dicks
Elegantly adorned in a pressed suit and lurking coyly under a ten-gallon hat, Dwight Yoakam momentarily paused as he immersed himself within the musical accord. A mixture of acoustic and electric guitar rattled and growled from the stage while keyboards swirled and drums pounded relentlessly. A thrust of his guitar was accompanied by an overstated strum, and with a quick side step and a purposeful stomp of his foot, the frustration encapsulated within the song’s verse soon gave way to the optimism of the chorus. Actions often speak louder than words, and Yoakam’s perfectly synchronized discharge of purpose during “Blame the Vain” spoke volumes.
Dwight Yoakam has built a career out of allowing his actions to do his speaking for him. With a resonating croon that periodically shrills to heights equivalent to the Appalachian mountains, the Kentucky native has maintained a steadfast musical course that has seen him embrace a myriad of musical influences.
From rollicking honky tonk to introspective ballads and highly charged rock and roll, Yoakam’s songs jump genera as liberally as his singing does notes. His discerning stage presence, distinctive vocals, and poignant delivery enrich not only his own songs, but also a collection of inspired covers. From Cheap Trick’s “Want You to Want Me” through June Carter’s “Ring of Fire” to Buck Owens’s “Crying Time,” Yoakam’s profound musical empathy is apparent.
Surrounding himself with exquisitely talented players, Yoakam crafts a set as intriguing as it is enchanting and executes it with a passion that many of his contemporaries can only hint at. But despite the enthusiasm and dynamics that propel the sound, there is an inherent sense of anguish encapsulated within the Dwight Yoakam musical experience.
Lyrically he mostly explores the somber end of the emotive spectrum where dead ends, lost love, and false starts rein supreme. Yet the vocals are only part of his lyrical power. After spitting out the lines “I’ll blame it all on someone else / ’Til there’s nobody left, then I’ll just blame me,” Yoakam stepped away from the microphone, lowered his head and stared at the floor. This nonchalant gesture dramatically reaffirmed the song’s stark realism and saw its sentiments resonate across the room.