The latest from everbody's favourite biscuit bakin' superstar finds him rocking out...
Sue Keogh 2005
1986 was the year that country music got interesting and credible again, with a new wave of artists making the first releases in what would become enduring careers; Steve Earle's Guitar Town, Lyle Lovett's Lyle Lovett, Randy Travis' Storms Of Life, and Dwight Yoakam with his modern take on the honky tonk Bakersfield sound, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc Etc (1986). It's a sound that he was to hone over the next couple of decades through his fruitful relationship with guitarist/ producer Pete Anderson, under the embraces of record label Reprise.
In recent years he has concentrated more and more on his film career, with performances in Sling Blade, The Panic Room and South Of Heaven, West Of Hell (which he also wrote, scored and directed). Then out of the blue he announced his split from Reprise and released the excellent Population Me (2003) on a small independent label. Whilst not a radical departure in style from his previous work, the album was fresh and exuberant, as if he'd been waiting for the chance to go it alone for some time.
Blame The Vain is similarly energetic and full of gusto. It's a fun record that itches to be played live. If it has more of a country rock feel, it's because Yoakam put together his band from a load of musicians he met in dodgy LA bars whose music evoked that late 1960s Sin City scene. The Eagles' Timothy B. Schmitt also crops up on harmony vocals.
Because it's so rooted in traditional sounds Blame The Vain does have an air of familiarity about it. The twangy 12-bar romp "I Wanna Love Again" is this album's obligatory Buck Owens tribute, "Intentional Heartache" threatens to turn into Route 66 any second, and isn't that the riff from "I Walk The Line" cropping up in "I'll Pretend" - perhaps anin-joke courtesy of upright bassist Dave Roe, who was in Johnny Cash's band for twelve years?
In a further move towards artistic freedom, Yoakam also produces the record. There are a few moments when his critical judgment clearly called a cab and headed out for the evening - notably on the intro to "She'll Remember", with its crazy synth and Dick Van Dyke voiceover. Don't lose Pete Anderson's number just yet, Dwight.