They had to coin a term to describe Dwight Yoakam: cowpunk, a raw, anachronistic, bleeding-heart honky-tonk revivalism born in the ‘80s, when the country establishment was more concerned with glitzy pop currency and a major brand overhaul. Yoakam and his signature sideman, guitar whiz Pete Anderson, found their initial audience in Los Angeles, playing in the same clubs as X and the Dead Kennedys and sharing of that mad energy. He was hardly the first storytelling roots farmer to find his purchase in the rock world (Johnny Cash is the archetype for that), but Yoakam’s first few albums were smash hits without borders, beloved by the Nashville establishment as by the rock kids, who like their country a certain way.
As the critics have it, Yoakam’s peak achievement is a trio of albums in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s: Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room, If There Was a Way and This Time. And indeed, that stuff is American storytelling of a high order. After a long hiatus, however, 2012’s 3 Pears sounds fresher and less predictable than anything that he has ever done. In terms of lyrics and persona, he doesn’t break character; he probably can’t. But musically, 3 Pears is a joyride of classic cowpunk melded with subtle pop moves and even a little oddball indie rock, courtesy of a couple of Beck-produced tracks. It is so worth it.
Dwight Yoakam kicks off the Belleayre Music Festival on Saturday, July 6 at Belleayre Mountain in Highmount. The show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are available via Ticketmaster. For more information, call (800) 942-6904 or visit https://belleayremusic.org.