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WEEKEND REVIEWS : Pop : Yoakam Lets Tunes Talk

July 25, 1994

DEVORE — Dwight Yoakam shakes and swings a bit behind his guitar, but he's no dancer, shouter, acrobat or macho man. His country contemporaries in Nashville can have all that. At the Glen Helen Blockbuster Pavilion on Saturday, Yoakam was confident enough to let his music and his forlorn whine stand alone.

That music is rooted in the rawest of country traditions (Bakersfield's Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, et al.), but it's aggressively contemporary without pandering to fleeting pop trends. It attracted a broad mix of fans: urban cowboys waltzing their dates up and down the aisles, graying C&W veterans, drunken frat boys and others.

Yoakam remained a down-to-earth presence (even in ridiculously tight leather pants), singing tales of heartache and loss with a jolt of musical experimentation. His vaguely psychedelic ballad "A Thousand Miles From Nowhere" recalled Roy Orbison's more contemplative side, and his early days on the L.A. club scene emerged in "Long White Cadillac," the Blasters' ode to Hank Williams.

If Yoakam's measured delivery provided the night's emotional foundation, the adrenaline came from his longtime guitarist (and record producer) Pete Anderson's country-rock flourishes, reverb and other atmospherics. They stood as near-equal partners on stage, a collaboration that's gone from traditionalism to pushing country music's boundaries without abandoning its soul.

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