Second Hand Heart
4 out of 5 stars
At this stage, Dwight Yoakam has nothing left to prove. The numbers tell a persuasive story: 25 million albums sold, 21-time Grammy nominee, 12 gold and nine platinum or multi-platinum discs … he even holds the title as the most frequent guest on the Tonight Show. And that’s not including his acting in TV and films.
Still, it comes as a slight surprise that Yoakam is on a sort of comeback. His 2012 return to the Warner/Reprise label (his first batch of new material in five years) was a triumphant reappearance that organically meshed his Bakersfield country twang with retro pop, rock and psychedelic influences. This follow-up, while not as genre bending, is nearly as rousing.
The title seems clichéd, especially since Yoakam has been singing about “second hand hearts” in one way or another since his 1986 debut. But once that distinctive high lonesome voice kicks in on the opening mid-tempo “In Another World” with multiple acoustic guitars strumming, Beach Boys influenced backing vocals and a chorus you’ll immediately think you’ve heard before, it’s clear Yoakam is as inspired nearly 30 years into his career as ever.
Better still, it’s the start of a somewhat short but compelling 10-track, 41-minute ride that rocks hard while remaining firmly in country/roots territory. One highlight, the punchy rockabilly “Liar,” seems to be a demo that was so sizzling and raw, he included it with no polishing. The ballads are just as effective; the burnished “Dreams Of Clay” is one of his finest, most emotionally heart tugging performances, no small feat in a catalog as rich and deep as Yoakam’s. The closing “V’s Of Birds,” one of only two covers, finds the singer at his most sensitive and introspective.
But it’s the dynamic, rowdy rockers, from the Byrds’- styled picking of “Believe” to the Elvis-inspired “The Big Time,” that dominate. They prove that Dwight Yoakam in his third decade is more electrifying than the majority of younger guns aiming for a catalog even half as impressive as his.