Took Dave to Ithaca this past weekend and then scurried back up 88 and the Pike and down 395 to Webster MA to see Dwight Yoakam at Indian Ranch on Sunday, August 14th. I seem to like every musician I see, if you're familiar with my blog, but Dwight Yoakam holds a special place in my estimation of musicians. He's not as versatile as a Tim O'Brien or as gutsy as a Steve Earle or as much of a troubadour as a Tom Russell. But he's as talented (or more) as any of them and has written such an incredible number of songs that he sings with such emotion, effortlessly, that I'm as much in awe of his muse as of any of theirs.
The Adam Ezra Group opened and I'm sorry to say that I missed all but their last couple of songs in the course of driving over 5 hours from Ithaca that morning, getting stuck in traffic, and then trying to park on somebody's lawn (Indian Ranch was overflowing). Wish I'd seen their set, the bit I caught sounded very good.
Dwight came on after a long break with his new guitarist Eddie Perez (who used to play with Jim Lauderdale, James Intveld, and the Mavericks (selon Kate)), Josh Grange (who played a wicked pedal steel, keyboards (a great Vox box that had a superlative organ setting and could also sound like a honky-tonk piano), accordion, tambourine, mandolin, and sang harmony vocals), Mitch Marine the barefoot drummer, and long-time Dwight bassist Jonathan Clark.
They played the rockers, the chart-topping hits, and the Bakersfield sound you'd expect, dipping into the Buck Owens catalog and touching on Hank Williams and Elvis. But to me the amazing thing about Dwight as a performer is the power of his voice and his ability to croon a lyric that would have country-haters running away in panic but has us lovers screaming for more. His setlist was incredible because he realized this, and mixed the crowd-pleasers with his really precious stuff, like Blame the Vain, Baby Things Change ("she said 'you once cried my name,' I said 'well baby things change'"), It Won't Hurt, If There Was a Way, and A Thousand Miles From Nowhere. This was what I wanted to hear! He also did bluesy, soulful, slowed-down-until-it-hurts covers of Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down, Ring of Fire ... and he even slowed down Little Sister into a dirge that had most of the Indian Ranch crowd scratching their heads until he did a few signature spins and winked at the ladies.
He finished with Turn Me Loose and Guitars Cadillacs, and then came back for an encore, introduced the band (while the supposedly country crowd was *leaving* ... I can't stand old people), and then ripped it up with an encore of Since I Started Drinking Again (our anniversary song!) and Long White Cadillac (I've heard that one before ... recently). Great stuff, I'm so glad I went!
Here's a lousy little snippet that might convey some of the spirit: