This is the kind of album that poses a real dilemma for the reviewer. On one hand, it's a good album, more enjoyable certainly than what's being put out by most current country stars. On the other hand, it is by a large margin Yoakam's weakest effort at least since "Hillbilly Deluxe." Where on his past few albums, he has seemed fresh, original, and creative, here Yoakam often seems to be merely recycling himself. Even a highlight - the very bitter, "Sorry You Asked?"- has a mariachi background that seems tacked on. (The other great track is the lively "Baby Why Not"). Slurred vocals, another Dwight trademark, are done to excess. Since the album is entirely about a romantic breakup (making for some pretty bleak lyrics), let's give him the benefit of the doubt and suggest that he's conveying despondent apathy. Even at its best - and there are plenty of good moments - "Gone" never seems really fresh. It's good enough that if it were a debut album, this would be one of the year's most exciting releases. But coming on the heels of past greatness, "Gone" has to rank as a major disappointment.