Black Music Matters Festival

Dwight Yoakam

South Of Heaven West Of Hell – 2001 (Warner/Reprise)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

Dwight Yoakam's latest is the soundtrack to - more precisely, "songs and score from and inspired by" - his recent directorial debut. The album alternates new songs (that is, it contains nothing recycled from previous releases) with bits of dialogue from the movie. Determining the relationship these snippets are meant to bear to the songs (and the relationship of the songs themselves to the film) presumably requires viewing the movie itself, but the dialogue tracks occupy a minor portion of the disc; program them out and you're left with 45 minutes of music that works in its own right.

For the most part, that music is classic Yoakam fare: the stone country of "Tears For Two" and the Jagger co-write "What's Left Of Me" (which sounds curiously inert on disc, however, compared to the passionate reading he offered on tour this summer); the bluesy "First Thing Smokin'," which features a snarling background vocal from Bekka Bramlett; the sweeping sound of "Somewhere;" and "The Last Surrender," which is acoustic Dwight la "Traveler's Lantern." He stretches out on the two versions of "Words" which bookend the disc: the sparse rumination of the opener is reworked as an instrumental, jazz noir version to wrap things up. And as much as the preceding material is completely solid Yoakam, that closer may well be the disc's most interesting moment.