Dwight Yoakam back on track with ‘Pears’
BY LAURA EMERICK firstname.lastname@example.org April 3, 2013 2:14PM
♦ 8 p.m. April 10
♦ Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora
♦ Tickets, $50, $65, $79
♦ (630) 896-6666;
Dwight Yoakam never intended to disappear from the studio for seven years.
“It just worked out that way,” said the singer-songwriter, who titan Johnny Cash once called his his favorite country singer. “What’s that famous John Lennon quote? ‘Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.’ That’s pretty much how it has happened for me.”
After turning out discs that defined the alt-country sound, from “Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc.” (1986) to “This Time” (1993) to “Tomorrow’s Sounds Today” (2000), Yoakam went on hiatus after “Blame the Vain” (2005). Meanwhile, his film career, which took off with a high-profile role in “Sling Blade” (1996), and then progressed with parts in “Panic Room” (2002) and “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” (2005), demanded more of his creative attention.
So last September, when Yoakam released “3 Pears” (Warner Nashville), his first studio disc of new material in seven years, it was hailed as evidence that one of country’s renegade sons had finally returned to the roost.
Yoakam, who will perform April 10 at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, doesn’t see it that way, however. “Ever since ‘Blame the Vain,’ I’ve been playing a lot of live shows,” he said in an interview last week from his California office. “Maybe I was away in terms of new recorded music but I was hearing new things and I was writing new things. I was just enveloped in my thoughts. Besides, it was probably good that I was away for while because otherwise you’d never get a rest from me.”
Also, he regards “Dwight Sings Buck” (2007), his tribute to his longtime mentor, “Bakersfield Sound” pioneer Buck Owens, as more than just a covers disc. “I did that the album like it was a full album project,” he said. “I just didn’t have to write the songs. But I treated every track like it was an original.”
Last week marked the seventh anniversary of Owens’ death, and Yoakam and other kindred spirits will always revere the man who, along with Merle Haggard, brought honky-tonk back to country.
“Buck had such a great life,” Yoakam said. “I’m now writing a forward to a biography on him. Actually, it’s his collective notes that he intended to publish as his memoirs. Right before he died, I was on the phone with him for three hours, talking about his memoirs. I had been trying to help him with a literary agent. He had been writing with his nephew Mel, and they had been collecting a lot of information about folks in his life. He had known about his his health condition for a while, but he was almost trying to avoid it. But the great thing is that his music has reached more people after his death, because of a renewed focus on Buck and his legacy.”
As for his own legacy, Yoakam, 56, has always gone his own way. That’s the case for “3 Pears,” on which he tips his trademark Stetson to the ’60s/’70s pop, with references to the Beatles, the Bee-Gees and Marc Bolan. Although he produced most of the disc, alt-rocker Beck co-produced two tracks and former Warner Bros. Records president Lenny Waronker served as executive producer.
Waronker and Yoakam go back to the ’80s, when Yoakam played alongside the Blasters and X on the L.A. post-punk scene. That raw, stripped-down sound has always been part of his guiding aesthetic. “That’s why Beck and I were able to work so well together,” he said. “We both like that kind of reckless, raucous abandon. He told me, ‘There’s something very important about what you’re saying in the raw emotion of this music.’ And I thought, I agree. So let’s let it be.”
“Let It Be” of course is the title track of the Beatles’ last studio disc, and the Fab Four inspired the offbeat title of “3 Pears.” While watching the Martin Scorsese doc “Living in the Material World,” Yoakam was struck by a sequence of Lennon wearing three pairs of sunglasses. “John was yukking up with a film crew. It was during that whole ‘Revolver,’ Mod-influenced period. He’s wearring three pairs of Persol, very Hollywood-style sunglasses, and saying, ‘I see you here, I see you there.’ And I thought, that could be a song’s hook and chorus. And ‘Three Pairs of Glasses,’ that wouldn’t be a bad song tite. Then tongue-in-cheek, I switched ‘‘pairs to ‘pears,’ to riff off of Apple Corps [the Beatles’ corporate arm]. So it was about the inspiration of the moment giving the gift of a song.”