3 Pears

Dwight Yoakam

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3 Pears Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Dwight Yoakam effectively went into hibernation after the release Blame the Vain in 2005. He spent some time acting and playing shows, releasing an excellent Buck Owens tribute in 2007, but he shied away from original material for a full seven years, and when he re-emerged in 2012 with 3 Pears, it was to return to the Warner group after spending the 2000s as an independent artist. Oddly enough, 3 Pears feels more indie than anything he's cut in the new millennium, and not just because he's enlisted alt-rocker Beck as a producer for a pair of tracks. Yoakam, who produced the bulk of the album on his own, has decided to delve deeply into the spirit of the '60s, looking beyond Bakersfield and adding some serious swatches of pop color throughout the album. Certainly, this is steeped in the thick twang that's been at the heart of Yoakam's music since the start, but he's attempting more sounds and styles here than at anytime since 1993's This Time. This is an album where one song in no way predicts what comes next: it opens with "Take Hold of My Hand," a song propelled by a percolating bass hook reminiscent of Motown, then the album eases into the cool reflective groove of "Waterfall," a song that's a significant tonal shift from its predecessor. By the time the swinging, ringing "A Heart Like Mine," the first Beck co-production, arrives, Dwight has dabbled with sweet soul ("Trying"), laid-back into some straight-ahead rock & roll ("Nothing But Love"), and turned the honky tonk standard "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke" into a cowpunk raver that kicks harder than anything he's done since Guitars, Cadillacs Etc. Etc. By the time 3 Pears draws to its conclusion with a voice-and-piano rendition of "Long Way to Go" -- performed earlier in a lighter-hearted full band version -- Yoakam has surprised by digging deeper into every one of his obsessions, creating a record that captures the careening, adventurous spirit of the '60s without ever feeling doggedly retro. It's as fresh as any music he's ever made, and one of his very best albums.

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