Country rocker Dwight Yoakam plays this weekend at Britt Festivals
Dwight Yoakam sees several parallels between his 2015 album, “Second Hand Heart” and his 1986 debut album, the alt-country classic “Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.”
“It feels in a strange way connected to the very first record, ‘Guitars, Cadillacs,’ in the way that it came about,” Yoakam says during a telephone interview. " 'Guitars, Cadillacs' was an EP originally. Then Warner signed me in '85 and I re-released it in January of '86 as a full-length."
It feels to Yoakam as though songs on each album had previous lives before being recorded, he says. Each had its own journey.
Just as the songs from “Guitars, Cadillacs” that first surfaced on the independent EP were later supplemented by others and released as a full-length album, "Second Hand Heart" includes a few songs that have been gestating with Yoakam for some time.
The title track was written and under consideration for Yoakam’s 2012 album, “3 Pears,” while another original, “Dreams of Clay,” originally surfaced in a far different form on his 2000 album “Tomorrow’s Sounds Today.” Songwriter Anthony Crawford's "V's of Birds" is a song that Yoakam had thought of covering as far back as the mid '90s.
“The new album kind of created itself," Yoakam says. "And you know, ‘Guitars Cadillacs’ … the first album did that. They're examples of albums that lead you where they're going to go."
Another parallel is that “Guitars Cadillacs” and “Second Hand Heart” are on Warner Bro.'s Reprise label, a place that Yoakam called home for his first eight albums before releasing "Population Me" in 2003 and "Blame the Vain" in 2005 on independent labels. What's more, “Guitars, Cadillacs” and “Second Hand Heart” were recorded in the same studio — the legendary Capitol Records Studio B.
“That room’s just flat out got magic in it,” Yoakam says. “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 spits back 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 puts it — of "reckless abandon, mischief-making and fun” that reminds him of why he wanted to make albums in the first place. It's a feeling that has been present at various times on all of his albums, but never as well articulated as on "3 Pears" in 2012 and "Second Hand Heart."
"You hear it on things like 'Long Way Home' and 'Only Want You More,' a raved-up rockabilly, coming-off-the-rails kind of song, and in 'Gone,' but left to my own devices, I push the envelope more on '3 Pears' and 'Second Hand Heart,' " he says.
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 says of his take on "Man of Constant Sorrow."
A native of Pikeville, Ky., who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, Yoakam went to Los Angeles in 1977, inspired by the Bakersfield sound of Buck Owens and "Sweethearts of the Rodeo"-era The Byrds.
After scuffling about for a bit, he signed with Warner Bros. and released the chart-topping "Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc." It put Yoakam on a commercial roll that has produced a couple of dozen top country singles and nine platinum-selling albums.