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Dwight Yoakam

3 Pears – 2012 (Warner)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Dwight Yoakam

It's comforting to know that in an unpredictable, fast-paced world, there are certain things that will always remain the same. Dwight Yoakam will never come up short when it comes to sharing a cool groove. Indeed, here he is, some 35 years after making his debut, still looking sharp with that cowboy hat perched low over his eyes, giving the impression he hasn't aged a single day, and back at home on Warner Bros., the label that launched him originally.

It's also assuring to know that Yoakam still maintains his high standards, and does so without compromising the sound that's always spurred him on. Echoes of his idols - Merle Haggard and Buck Owens chief among them - remain entrenched in his swivel-hipped stance, and the new album's inclusion of a cover of that well-worn standard Dim Lights, Thick Smoke affirms a consistency to the cause. It, like the majority of songs on "3 Pears" - A Heart Like Mine, Long Way To Go and Take Hold Of My Hand, chief among them - would have sounded right at home on any of Yoakam's effort up until this point. And if there's a little less pedal steel and a bit more balladry, chalk it up to his attempts to move towards the middle. Likewise, credit him for doing so without abandoning his homespun, honky-tonk roots in the process.

Very few artists keep their origins so firmly entwined, especially three decades on. Similarly, few possess the kind of stomp and twang that makes original material ring with such authenticity... the kind that makes them sound like standards. He may have expanded his parameters, but Dwight Yoakam has never really left his devotion to Bakersfield behind.