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
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
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.