Music News & Reviews

Expect a career-spanning set from Dwight Yoakam’s State Fair show

Dwight Yoakam performs Sunday, July 17, at the California State Fair. The concert is free with paid fair admission.
Dwight Yoakam performs Sunday, July 17, at the California State Fair. The concert is free with paid fair admission.

Dwight Yoakam sees several parallels between his current album, “Second Hand Heart,” and his 1986 debut album, the alt-country classic “Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.”

“(‘Second Hand Heart’) feels in a strange way connected to the very first record … in the way that it came about,” Yoakam said in a recent phone interview.

Both “Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.” and “Second Hand Heart” include songs that had previous lives before being redone in somewhat different ways for the two albums.

Several songs from “Guitars, Cadillacs” first surfaced on an independent EP that was later supplemented with other songs and rereleased as “Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.” “Second Hand Heart” includes a few songs that had been gestating with Yoakam for some time.

“V’s of Birds” was a song Yoakam had thought of covering as far back as the mid-1990s. The title track was written and under consideration for Yoakam’s previous release, the acclaimed 2012 album “3 Pears,” while another original, “Dreams of Clay,” originally surfaced in a far different form on the 2000 album “Tomorrow’s Sounds Today.”

“The (new) album kind of created itself,” Yoakam said. “And you know, funny enough ‘Guitars, Cadillacs’ … the first album did that. It was an example of the album leads you to where it’s going to go.”

Another parallel is both “Guitars, Cadillacs” and “Second Hand Heart” are on Warner Bros./Reprise Records, the label Yoakam called home for his first eight albums before parting ways and releasing his 2003 album, “Population Me,” and his 2005 album, “Blame the Vain,” on independent labels.

What’s more, both “Guitars, Cadillacs” and “Second Hand Heart” were recorded in the same studio – the legendary Capitol Records Studio B in Los Angeles. “That room’s just flat out got magic in it,” Yoakam said. “Let’s see, the first six studio albums of my career were done at Capitol Studios, ‘Guitars, Cadillacs’ through ‘Gone.’ So that feels like home always. That room doesn’t lie. You better be on your game when you go into B because it just spits back to you in your face exactly what you just did.”

But what might be the biggest link between the two albums is an attitude Yoakam brought to the projects – a spirit, as he put it, of “reckless abandon, mischief making and fun” that reminded him of why he wanted to make albums in the first place.

It’s a feeling he says has been present at times on all of his records, but was never articulated as well as it has been with certain songs from “3 Pears” and now “Second Hand Heart.”

“You hear it on all of the albums,” Yoakam said of that reckless abandon. “You hear it on things like ‘Long Way Home.’ Another song that would have that expression in it would be ‘Only Want You More’ a raved up rockabilly coming-off-the-rails (kind of song). And in (the 1995 album) ‘Gone,’ I think the song ‘Never Hold You’ has a bit of that thing. But left to my own devices, I’m pushing more kind of the envelope maybe on ‘3 Pears’ and now this (album), in terms of the sonics of it.”

That sort of full-throttle, hard-rocking sound pops up on the new album in Yoakam’s cover of “Man of Constant Sorrow” (made famous on the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack) and his original, “Liar.”

On those tracks, Yoakam amps up the beats, lets the guitars rip and rocks out with the kind of abandon he’s only occasionally displayed on earlier albums. “Yeah, that’s a collision of the Ramones ambushing Bill Monroe,” Yoakam said of his take on “Man of Constant Sorrow.”

If Yoakam rarely rocked as hard on his earlier albums as he does on “Man of Constant Sorrow” and “Liar,” his sound nevertheless proved very successful, especially during the first decade of his career.

A native of Pikeville, Ky., who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, Yoakam came to Los Angeles in 1977, inspired by the rocking country sounds of Bakersfield-based Buck Owens and the “Sweethearts of the Rodeo”-era Byrds.

He scuffled for several years before getting signed by Warner Bros., and releasing the chart-topping “Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc.” album. It started Yoakam on a commercial roll that has produced 22 top 20 country singles and nine platinum albums. His total album sales stand at 25 million.

Yoakam figures to play a career-spanning set in his live shows, and a couple of members of his touring group also played extensively on “Second Hand Heart,” lending a continuity to the album and live show.

“It’s just gratifying to have the musicians I’m working with on stage work on the record with me,” Yoakam said. “There is a purity of energy and intent that you capture.”

Dwight Yoakam

When: 8 p.m. Sunday, July 17

Where: Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento

Cost: Concert is free with admission to the fair: $12 for adults; $8 for youths (ages 5-16); free for children 4 and under


Note: Reserved seating is sold out