California country rocker Dwight Yoakam pays tribute to his bluegrass roots on Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars…
The album is Yoakam covering his own early songs done acoustic bluegrass style with some heavy hitters in the genre: Bryan Sutter on guitar, mandolinist Adam Steffy, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Scott Vestal on banjo, and bassist Barry Bales.
The record’s title references the ‘60s-era sitcom Beverly Hillbillies, a series about hicks gone to Hollywood. The title also pays sly homage to all the Okies gone to California in the ‘30s and ‘40s who created honky tonk and the Bakersfield-style country sound in the aftermath.
Yoakam’s journey is similar, although he flirted dangerously and effectively with early L.A. punk and new wave on his way to being an oversized Stetson and sprayed-on blue jeans wearing cowboy sophisticate in the ‘80s.
Despite the goofy image, Yoakam’s vibe is solid.
He retains the Kentucky holler of his childhood and embellished his songwriting with melodies filtered from West Coast hybrids like The Byrds and the Beach Boys as well as California stalwarts like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.
Yoakam has an angle for tweaking an urban sensibility on to mountain hollow subjects. His twangy cutting voice is country to the core, but an early pre-Nashville country. That’s why it can skip from traditional bluegrass to urban cowpunk comfortably.
The most obvious track to display the country, honky-tonk bluegrass connection on Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars… is Guitars, Cadillacs. This rendition doesn’t have the impact of the original or the twang, but it has the sway of the fiddles that play off Yoakam’s reverb-laden voice sweetly.
The album is a scaled-down re-imagining of some of Yoakam’s best known and more obscure tracks done acoustic. As the album is a tribute in spirit, Yoakam adds in a rendition of Purple Rain. Like the rest of the recording, he pares it down and lets his voice bring it on home.
Ed note: You can catch Dwight Yoakam live when he plays Prospera Place in Kelowna, Thursday, Oct. 27.
For tickets, visit selectyourtickets.com
– Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews the latest music releases every Friday for The Morning Star.