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Dwight Yoakam returns to CMA fest with style

LP Field, Nashville, June 8, 2008

Reviewed by Jessica Phillips

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Dwight Yoakam brought his Bakersfield sound back to Nashville for his first CMA Fest performance in nearly 20 years, headlining the final night of concerts. In a black shirt and his signature tight jeans, Yoakam squeezed 12 hits into a half-hour set, including "Streets of Bakersfield," "Little Sister," "Guitars, Cadillacs" and "Fast as You." He then gave a nod to two of his heroes, Buck Owens ("Act Naturally") and Johnny Cash ("Ring of Fire"). Judging from the way this tired crowd stayed until the set ended shortly before midnight, California should part with Yoakam a little more often.

Dressed in a classic jacket and jeans combo and a megawatt smile, Randy Travis offered only a brief set of five songs, including his new single, "Dig Two Graves," "Diggin' Up Bones," "Deeper Than the Holler" and his runaway 1987 hit, "Forever and Ever Amen." The crowd spontaneously cheered throughout Travis' set, singing along with his older hits as though they came perhaps only 5 years ago, instead of nearly 20.

"Hannah Montana's dad" Billy Ray Cyrus still exudes the enthusiasm, star power and sheer energy of a performer half his age, with his heavy jacket, dark shades and ripped biceps. In his 16th year at "Fan Fair" as he still calls it, Cyrus managed to be a major draw for the younger crowd. He kicked things off with his hits, "It Could've Been Me," "I Want My Mullet Back" and the crowd-pleaser "Achy Breaky Heart," (thankfully, there were no attempts to jump offstage during "Achy Breaky" this year). After giving several references throughout his set to Hannah Montana, he disappointed the crowd by bringing out his daughter Brandi (not Mylie) to play guitar on his recent hit "Ready, Set, Don't Go."

Cute-as-always Sara Evans kicked off her set with "Born to Fly" and "Real Fine Place" before bringing out fiancÚ (and former University of Alabama player) Jay Barker onstage for her intro into "Love You With All My Heart." Evans' somewhat pitchy and overly nasal voice sounded surprisingly pleasant after the first song, and her approachable and down-to-earth persona went over well with this crowd.

Other highlights on Sunday's lineup included James Otto's hit, "Just Got Started Lovin' You," Phil Stacey's patriotic "Old Glory" and Bucky Covington's cover of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall," which sounded authentic and passionate, if not a bit out of place with this country-loving crowd.

Sunday's performance roster was easily the most eclectic of the four LP Field concerts, but in the end it was Yoakam's cool Cali-country sound that had the crowd crazy for this honky tonk man.