Second to None
With a soaring reputation in the country music world that’s hard to reach, Dwight Yoakam has more than 15 albums to his credit, several of which landed at the top of Billboard’s Hot Country charts. When Yoakam began his career in the 1980’s, it’s hard to believe that his particular brand of “pop urban cowboy” music had a hard time locating an audience. Nearly three decades later, Yoakam’s rock-infused latest release, Second Hand Heart, is anything but second hand.
A mixture of traditional country and a hint of rock and roll drives Second Hand Heart. Yoakam’s voice has the twang and drawl of the country style, complete with abundant scoops into the upper register at the end of phrases. “Dreams of Clay,” the introduction of which sounds similar to Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds,” has a broader, more mellow vocal tone, whereas the more aggressive “In Another World” features a courser, sand-papery tone from Yoakam.
While the entire record demonstrates excellence in a genre Yoakam rightfully dominates, Second Hand Heart suffers a bit from using similar tempos, volumes and textures across the album. The lyrics get lost among the wash of these dense textures of guitars, drums and the occasional supporting duet vocal line or auxiliary instrument.
This being said, “Liar” is all these things, and a particularly fun, raucous track, packed with escalating electric guitar fills and solos, drum kit, vocal screams, clapping on beats two and four, and some tambourine thrown in for good measure. The lyrics, re:love, “You say that you do, we both know you don’t,” fit the track’s tone, and it’s hard to sit still. “Off Your Mind” sets itself apart with a whistling synth and upright bass, sounding like down home country with a side of county fair.
Saving the most reflective track for last, “V’s of Birds” dips into the low register with subdued guitar, legato low register guitar/bass lines and a keyboard opening. Different voices, such as an organ synth, later in the track and scaling back to allow the voice to shine through at various moments throughout the track present a refreshing change. On one hand, it seems late in the album for this kind of tune, but at the same time it’s a nice come down from a record jam packed with movement.
A country legend, Dwight Yoakam’s music certainly isn’t going stale, writing eight of the tracks on this album himself. An all around fun release with some good old country twang and a modern flair, Second Hand Heart continues Yoakam’s legacy of first rate music.