Album Review – Dwight Yoakam’s “3 Pears”

October 4, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  20 Comments

Because Dwight is just so damn cool, and because it’s been quite a while since his heyday, it’s easy to forget that at one point he was one of the biggest things going in mainstream country music; selling out arenas, and shaking up the sound with his neotraditional, Bakersfield-fueled tunes. Yoakam has sold over 25 million records and charted 30 singles, but you don’t think of him as a mainstream success, he’s the man you shake your fist at, but love all the same because he will always be cooler than you.

7 years is a long time to be absent from an original release, though Yoakam has plenty of excuses and been plenty busy with numerous movie appearances. He says the long lapse was not planned, but after coming off the joyride that was the mid 80’s through the early 2000’s for Dwight, crowds and sales were beginning to dwindle. Where he once played arenas, he was now headlining county fairs and releasing albums on smaller labels like Koch and New West.

Now he’s back on Warner where his career started in earnest after coming up playing mostly in rock and punk circles and being branded too “out there” by Nashville. You probably won’t see Yoakam’s name on your local arena’s marquee (he plays a lot of concert-catering casinos these days), but it feels like the Yoakam hiatus allowed his career to baste and simmer until now he’s re-emerged as a younger, but bona fide country music legend; a much more appetizing alternative to grasping to hold on to your youth and mainstream relevancy (see Hank Jr.). 3 Pears debuted at #3 on Billboard’s country chart, and was helped along by a top-notch media push by a big label.

It would have been impossible to screw up 3 Pears. With Dwight’s molasses voice, all you have to do is cut open a live mic in a studio and magic will happen. What’s the old saying about singing the phone book? When Johnny Cash has cited you as his favorite country singer, you know the talent is natural. All it needs is an outlet.

After giving 3 Pears an extended listen, I was curious of why even though I liked all of the songs, only a few of them seemed to grow on me to the point of where I craved them. I think this is a product of the production. Though none of the approaches to the songs are necessarily wrong, some feel like they are stretching, like they are trying to make sure the songs sound hip and fresh instead of letting them breathe and find their own path.

For example, the very first song, “Take Hold of My Hand” starts off with a very hip bass line. This is a song that Yoakam had been sitting on for 20 years and reached out to Kid Rock to help finish. No offense to bass guitar (or Kid Rock), but when I hear a Yoakam song, I don’t want to notice the bass. I want to be grabbed by the collar by Yoakam’s voice and have everything else compliment it. Similar bass action starts of the song “Trying”, an otherwise excellent song and one of the best on the album. But despite whatever production miscues, the strength of the material rallies.

Beck also helped out on 3 Pears, collaborating and recording two songs at his Malibu studio, “Missing Heart”, and in my opinion the gem of the project, “A Heart Like Mine”. This song is where everything comes together. Where some of the tracks on 3 Pears come across as a little too polished, here the guitar is dirty, the words a hard to make out, and that’s the way I want my Dwight. If I can’t understand the words because Yoakam’s voice is in that sweet spot for his drawl and inflections, that’s perfect, because that means I can feel them.

One of the hardest things for an excellent singer to do is to write to their vocal strengths. That’s one of the reasons Dwight has released 4 cover albums, and why some of his biggest hits were version of recognizable songs, (ex: “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Streets of Bakersfield”). Yoakam finds that magical combination of originality and his singing sweet spot a few times on 3 Pears. He also let’s fly a great cover of the oft-covered “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke” that has its roots in the original Bakersfield Sound that Dwight helps carry on and that is being showcased right now (and that song specifically) at the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Bakersfield Sound exhibit.

Dwight Yoakam is an important figure in the quest to save country music. He’s authentic, real, and original. Yet he’s also successful, accepted, proven, palatable to the mainstream, and perfect for outreach with his acting career. He’s country’s king of cool (despite what he looks like without a hat), and 3 Pears is a solid contribution that will hopefully re-ignite interest in this iconic, one-of-a-kind country music talent that generations deserve to hear.

1 3/4 of 2 guns up.

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Preview & Purchase Tracks of 3 Pears


20 Comments to “Album Review – Dwight Yoakam’s “3 Pears””

  • He’s a case study in how tradition and innovation can produce a sound that is popular and raw at the same time. I wish the music industry would accept more artists that follow in his footsteps. Imagine a world where country radio plays artists like him. No more dance beats and Nickelback riffs in country music!


  • Thank God for Dwight.


  • I loved this album. “A Heart Like Mine” sorta sounded like a cross between CCR and Buck Owens.


  • How does Kid Rock’s involvement affect the song that he helped out on? Does it weaken the album at all?


    • yes.. I hate the album now..


      • due to my pretty high opinion of Dwight I am a tad disappointed that kid rock was somehow involved. I admit that when kid rocks album Devil without a cause came out a friend turned me on to it and i was surprised that the rest of the album was better than what i heard on the radio. still i was not THAT impressed and was wondering what come after it. What came was grabbing the stick and pointing the nose straight for the ground. that’s why it seams sad he was even mentioned here. Dwight has always had a presence that said” a genuine representative of country” I always have liked Dwight even when i was all Heavy Metal and would not have admitted it to my black t-shirted friends. He has put out tons of good music has proven that he still has good songs in him despite the quality of the venues he has been featured in lately. Kid Rock Had one so-so (arguably) album, plays huge venues and has no good songs to offer. Dwight is no Kid rock


        • I’m not advocating Kid Rock but maybe there is more to the dude then what we see.. To think Dwight went to him for input says a little something.. just a thought


    • I don’t think the song sticks out from the album at all, and certainly doesn’t diminish it. I’m no fan of Kid Rock and generally think of him as the human equivalent of a wet cigarette, but overall the song is fine. I did think to start off the last original Dwight album in 7 years with some funk-infused bass line was a bad move though. Let’s blame Kid Rock because he’s an easy target. ;)


      • I am no fan of Kid Rock, nor have I heard Dwight’s new record, but I need to call everyone’s attention to Kid Rock’s track on the Buddy Holly tribute album that came out last year titled, “Rave On Buddy Holly.”


        When I first heard this song, I was surprised to find out who was behind it. I mean, this is the guy who put out “Bawitdaba,” maybe one of the shittiest songs of all time. Nonetheless, I’ve got to give credit where credit is due and Kid Rock’s version of Buddy Holly’s “Well Alright” is pretty amazing – a standout on a tribute album that features Macca, JTE, Lou Reed, She & Him, and Patti Smith.

        I don’t care if Dwight asked Carly Rae Jepsen or PSY to contribute, if it’s good, it’s good, and I’ll stick to judging an album by its merits.


  • I remember growing up in the 80’s and hearing Dwight because my mom liked his music. About three years ago I REALLY got into him after seeing the music video for “Close Up The Honky Tonks” on his “Dwight Sings Buck” album.


    Everything the guy does is cool and original…

    I ended up picking up everything he ever put out over a 4 month period. Was excited to get some new stuff from him and picked up 3 Pears the first day it came out. Good Stuff!


  • excellent album.. I listened to tracks 1-11 and thought the album was awesome and then Long Way to Go came on and it made it great…


  • Dwight has never put out a bad record. Not many can say that. Solid stuff from Dwight.


  • I heard his song If I Had a Waterfall the other day on Imus. Thanks for the review.


  • It’s as good as any of his other albums imo, dwight is one of my favs.


  • Good review. I love Dwight Yoakam’s music and think he’s extremely talented. I like that he’s not afraid to be different. I like this album, but I was a little disappointed because I wanted a little more of the sound that I’ve come to love in his music. I agree with The Triggerman’s review in that it’s defintely an album of substance and I’m thrilled he made this album after a long dry spell. But I also agree that none of the songs really hit me with that craving his music usually does where I just hit repeat over an over again. I thought there was a bit too much of what I generically call rock guitar. A song or two made me think of a Bruce Sprinstein type of sound – which is great – but not what I was really wanting from Dwight Yoakam. But the music is growing on me for sure and I still agree its a good album. I thought the vocals and lyrics were the high points. At a minimum, and that’s an understatement, it’s not the pop crap we’re usually subjected to. He still has a unique style that sets him apart from the rest. You’re not going to listen to this and think it sounds like all the other so-called country stuff on the radio.


  • This album definitely combines several different types of musical styles.

    “Trying”, “It’s Never Alright”, “Missing Heart”, and “Long Way to Go” fit within the mold of classic country, although they take a progressive approach to it. The title track stands out from the rest of the album and features a U2/Coldplay sound. “Waterfall” resembles Waylon Jennings songs, characterized by the incorporation of some rock elements (e.g. the bass-drum beat) into an otherwise classic country acoustic foundation. The remaining songs on the album fit squarely into the 70’s classic rock mold.


  • Saw Dwight play a couple weeks ago. He nailed it as usual, and you could certainly see great new energy from him when he played the new stuff. Not that he lacked on the old classics, but how jacked up can he get to play “Fast As You”…again.

    I think Dwight belongs in the discussion of the Mt. Rushmore of Country Music. The guy has been, sounded, looked the same for 30 years and it has been cool for 30 years. He has never waivered. He has his movie interests, but his music has always been his style. Some people say George Strait has been a constant over the last 30 years, but even Strait has waiverd a bit and dabbled with some pop-country songs.

    There is also some serous complinment to Dwight as an original. No one has dared to try and duplicate him…cause you can’t. His voice, his style, his dance moves….there’s nothing like it.


  • Hopefully Dwight wins some awards for this album, so everyone takes notice that Dwight is a legend! Maybe that will wake up country radio.


  • Without his hat on. That’s pretty good. Makes me think of the argument I had going with my wife and her friend. While listening to a playlist that including Yoakam and Tim McGraw (included for my sweetie) I made a comment about ‘Don’t Take the Girl’ being extremely cloying or treacley especially compared to the Yoakam we had just heard. The ladies claimed they just didn’t like his [Yoakam’s] music yet with repeated questioning it kept coming back to how they didn’t like how Yoakam (balding and whatnot) looked and how hot Tim McGraw was (with hair plugs I pointed out). I just said I get it, what with the unbuttoned shirt showing the Lee Press-on chest hair and the hot chick-song singing wife how he could seem appealing. He seems to be a good guy from what I read about him and he and Dwight have a production company together so he’s cool with Dwight. The women never could say anything bad about Dwight’s music, though.

    Hell it’s easy to see what Cash liked about him. Just listen to ‘Ring of Fire’. Typically Johnny would cover a song and that would be all she wrote. As Trent Reznor said after hearing Cash do ‘Hurt’ for the first time ” [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore…” In the case of ‘Ring of Fire’ Dwight makes it his.


  • Dwight Yoakam is one of the best country artists of all time.


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