KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Thirty Year Thursday – DWIGHT YOAKAM “GUITARS, CADILLACS, ETC., ETC.”

[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986, which now shifts to the releases I didn’t discover until after 1986]

Artist: DWIGHT YOAKAM
Album: GUITARS, CADILLACS, ETC., ETC.

Dwight Yoakam - Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.My parents had a very small record collection when I was a child but they chose wisely because most of them have continued to impact me into adulthood. Among them were albums by classic country artists like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Webb Pierce. I didn’t grow up as a country music fan per se, but I enjoyed ‘70s crossover radio hits by Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Crystal Gayle, The Oak Ridge Boys and numerous others. So while many of my friends dismissed the entire genre as “hillbilly music,” I was always open to it. By the mid-‘80s a new generation of artists were emerging, such as Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakam and Randy Travis. While I enjoyed a few of the latter’s songs at the time, it would be years until I checked out the others, eventually becoming a big fan of them all. By the turn of the millennium I don’t think I had ever heard a Dwight Yoakam song. In fact, I didn’t take notice of him until his strong acting performance in the 1996 film Sling Blade. Then in 2000 he released dwightyoakamacoustic.net, a collection of solo performances of songs from throughout his career, which became my entry point into his discography. It took a few listens to fully appreciate his voice, which would deter anyone with an aversion to “twang,” but I was immediately impressed by his songwriting. It wasn’t long before I dove into his catalog and discovered a treasure trove of material that country fans had been enjoying for so many years. With his longtime producer/co-arranger/guitarist Pete Anderson by his side, he unleashed one high-charting album after another. Anderson’s contributions can’t be overstated, as he & the other world class musicians helped elevate Yoakam’s songs to a higher level. All of this was apparent from the beginning with his debut album, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.

Right off the bat, Yoakam’s combination of classic country with rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll and Buck Owens’ “Bakersfield Sound” set him apart from his contemporaries. “Guitars, Cadillacs” was Yoakam’s first #1 single, and its refrain of “guitars, Cadillacs & hillbilly music, is the only thing that keeps me hanging on” is essentially his mission statement. dwight-yoakam-live-1986“Bury Me,” a bouncy, uptempo duet with Lone Justice singer Maria McKee, is incredibly catchy. The nearly 5-minute long “South Of Cincinnati,” the only song here to clock in over 3:20, proves that Yoakam was also a great balladeer & folk singer. It reminds me of some of Jimmy Buffett’s ballads. Album opener “Honky Tonk Man,” originally a hit for Johnny Horton in the ‘50s, was Yoakam’s debut single and a Top 5 hit. The third & final single, “It Won’t Hurt,” wasn’t as successful as the other two, but this sad, midtempo country shuffle is another winner, with subtle fiddle, steel guitar & piano. The band cranks out a rocked-up, honkytonk version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire” which shone a light on that legendary artist during an era when he was all but forgotten, prior to his resurgence the following decade. I also love the folky, back-porch vibe of “Miner’s Prayer,” with a simple arrangement of vocals, fingerpicked & strummed acoustic guitars. Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. is a superb example of an artist arriving fully-formed on his debut album. It stands the test of time thirty years after its release and, at under 32 minutes, never overstays its welcome.

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17 comments on “Thirty Year Thursday – DWIGHT YOAKAM “GUITARS, CADILLACS, ETC., ETC.”

  1. 80smetalman
    October 6, 2016

    I spent most of my four year military career in North Carolina so I did get an appreciation for country music. This reminds me of that, quite good.

    Like

    • You must have been in a different section of NC than where I’ve been living the past year, since there’s no country music to be heard here. Glad you like this. He’s quite a songwriter, and fans of folk & Americana would find a lot to like in his discography.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 80smetalman
        October 7, 2016

        I was stationed just outside Jacksonville. There’s all sorts of music around there but definitely some country. I did go to a couple of country bars in other places in NC.

        Like

      • I think I’m in a much more “cosmopolitan” part of NC. I actually like country bars…as long as there’s no line dancing. That’s where I draw the line (no pun intended).

        Liked by 1 person

      • 80smetalman
        October 8, 2016

        LOL

        Like

  2. mikeladano
    October 6, 2016

    I can’t comment on this album much. I remember buying it in the past, for my mom (?) or uncle? Probably my uncle.

    Anyway, I like Dwight, both as an actor and a singer. Suspicious Minds was my favourite of his songs albeit a cover, and he was brilliant in Slingblade. Though for my money, you gotta go with Dwight in the Kyle McLaughlin film “Roswell”.

    His best line?

    “I’ll tell you something…they AIN’T green.”

    Like

    • Your mom &/or uncle has good taste. Dwight is a fantastic songwriter and his music would appeal to fans of rockabilly, folk & Americana if they’re not snobs about “country.” I really enjoy his version of “Suspicious Minds,” but I’m a huge Elvis fan and that might be my all-time favorite Elvis song (especially the multiple live versions from the ’70s), so Dwight’s rendition doesn’t quite measure up to the King.

      Never saw Roswell. In fact, I don’t remember hearing about it. I’ll keep an eye out for it on cable or Netflix.

      Like

  3. J.
    October 7, 2016

    This is a great one, Rich. Dwight Yoakam is an exceptional songwriter – absolutely no doubt about it. Like the others you mentioned there (Earle and Travis, especially) he really injected some vigour and passion into what was a fairly stale period for country music. Much like the old ‘outlaw’ guys, they crossed over without sacrificing their art and their message. Great songs, great lyrics, and really great personalities.

    As for the genre in general, I think folks tend to ignore a lot of the stuff because of the calculated ‘big hat’ country music. All formulaic and whatever. Well crafted, but no substance. There are a lot of great acts, it’s just unfortunate that they’re buried under a whole lot of deadwood and Nashville just wont support them. It’s pretty grim that they don’t recognise a lot of the true greats until much later on (Willie Nelson, Cash, Waylon, Haggard and even more recently with Sturgill Simpson).

    Like

    • All great points, J. It is sad that, in addition to some fans taking an immediate dislike to anything labeled “country,” the industry itself usually chooses the most mainstream-sounding artists to promote while ignoring the truly creative ones. Like you said, it often takes time before the greats are truly appreciated, although it’s nice to see people like Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson get embraced by rock fans.

      I’m glad we agree about Yoakam’s songwriting. Discovering him in the early ’00s, I was amazed thinking how successful he was with mainstream country fans in the ’80s & ’90s since his music seemed much more diverse than the usual stuff played on country radio.

      Liked by 1 person

      • J.
        October 7, 2016

        Yoakam is definitely uniquely positioned. Still highly regarded by mainstream, the industry, critics, fans, and his peers. A real talent. I thought Sturgill was going to be embraced after signing with Atlantic, but he delivered a curveball that left the country folks a bit perplexed.

        Like

      • I heard the Sturgill Simpson album once and was really impressed. It’s much more diverse than I expected based on things I read about him, and I’m not surprised it didn’t break into the mainstream.

        Like

      • J.
        October 8, 2016

        It’s a strange one, cause I really like it, but I was disappointed as much as I was impressed by the change in direction. Metamodern Sounds In Country Music was always gonna be impossible to follow, right enough!

        Like

      • I guess I need to check out Sturgill’s first album. Thanks for the recommendation.

        Like

      • J.
        October 11, 2016

        Let me know what you think!

        Like

      • Just listened to Metamodern Sounds… for the first time. I really like it but I think I prefer A Sailor’s Guide… by a slight margin. Thanks again for reminding me that I needed to check out more of his music.

        Liked by 1 person

      • J.
        October 18, 2016

        No worries at all, Rich. I think I probably prefer Metamodern, as I heard it first and it’s my kinda music (I’m a sucker for good country music). I’m glad you discovered it, though – it’s a pretty stellar album that continues to reveal itself on each listen.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Thirty Year Thursday – LYLE LOVETT “LYLE LOVETT” | KamerTunesBlog

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