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Album Review

A startling moment in Dwight Yoakam's career, Gone fully integrates the early-'60s grooving rock and R&B of Doc Pomus and Lieber and Stoller with the hard honky tonk of the Bakersfield sound with the regional touches that have become so prevalent on his records (note the opening track here, "Sorry You Asked?," with its mariachi horns in the refrains and bridge). And sometimes they all occur in the same song such as on the title track here where the Farfisa sound of Tex-Mex, Doug Sahm-style rock meets Chuck Berry's guitar riffing meets Buck Owens country, and all of it is Yoakam. Then there's "Gone" with its Hammond B-3 and string section that could be an early rock anthem from the New York street corners if it weren't for Yoakam's restless Kentucky voice crooning in the swinging Texas wind. Even the straight rock & roll of "Never Hold You," with its psychedelic guitar fills before its "C.C. Rider" — à la Mitch Ryder not Charlie Rich — refrain turns on a country-rock dime. Pete Anderson is a guitar slinger maximus who may have been schooled by the Buckaroos' Don Rich's style, but he plays with the razor-sharp intensity of the Detroit rocker he is. While it's true that those who long for Yoakam's pure honky tonk style may be lost a bit here, with a few spins they'll get it. Yoakam's music has been a thrill to witness as it has developed. Gone is the work of a singular talent with input from many different sources, from instrumentalists and horn and string sections to a dozen backing vocalists all used on different tracks. As the album closes with "Heart of Stone," a co-write with Kostas, you hear Yoakam go back to where modern country music came from in the first place: In the cascading strings that fall over the face of the mix, the band slide in behind them and the ghosts of Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline enter the singer and intone the kind heartbreak that can only be voiced in a country song. Chalk up another winner for Yoakam.


Born: 23 October 1956 in Pikeville, KY

Genre: Country

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

With his stripped-down approach to traditional honky tonk and Bakersfield country, Dwight Yoakam helped return country music to its roots in the late '80s. Like his idols Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams, Yoakam never played by Nashville's rules; consequently, he never dominated the charts like his contemporary Randy Travis. Then again, Travis never played around with the sound and style of country music like Yoakam. On each of his records, he twists around the form enough to make it...
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