Black Music Matters Festival

Dwight Yoakam

Under the Covers – 1997 (Reprise)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Dwight Yoakam is not one to rest on his laurels. A covers album is no sure thing at all because unless the musician does something unusual with the 12 songs, the listener might as well stick with the original. Here, for the most part, Yoakam does put his own tattoo on the chosen dozen, and not all are even country.

The lead-off "Claudette" penned by Roy Orbison and a hit for The Everlys, is a solid start with its chugging keyboards. Yoakam should please Johnny Horton with his take on "North to Alaska," while his slowed-down, spare version of "Wichita Lineman" grows on you. Yoakam goes British for a number of covers, including a totally revamped version of The Clash song "Train in Vain" that works, thanks, in part, to bluegrass sage Ralph Stanley's banjo playing. And Yoakam does justice with a rootsy version of The Stones' "The Last Time." A duet with Sheryl Crow on "Baby Don't Go," a hit for Sonny & Cher, is a nice change of pace. What doesn't work is "Things We Said Today." It sounds too forced and calculated. Ditto for a lounge version of "So Tired," The Kinks song.

Last time out, Yoakam's "Gone" was his most adventuresome, but not successful commercially. Despite a few flaws here, Yoakam still isn't sitting around. Listeners should have no trouble looking under these covers.