I never really believed in something said with a word, Dwight Yoakam drawls on the groove-heavy “Rock It All Away,” instantly reminding us just how much more powerful a phrase can be when paired with the right melody. For Dwight, the human condition has long served as inspiration, and the emotional punch he gains through his ever-honest voice and tender melodies has never lost its force. On 3 Pears, his first studio album in seven years, the musical icon explores the connections that bind us with a powerful new set that is 100%, classic Dwight.
Like his cowboy hat slung low and his trusty jean jacket, 3 Pears makes no attempt to be anything other than full-on Dwight Yoakam. The album-opener “Take Hold of My Hand,” which was co-written with Kid Rock, makes it immediately evident that his high lonesome voice sounds as good as, and maybe even better, than your favorite track on Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. With the compelling truth of lines like, I’ve lusted for love, but love is so blind, Dwight’s connection with the listener is quick and strong. On the steady-thumpin’ “Nothing But Love,” the virtues of that complex emotion are discussed in full. Pain, forgiveness and companionship are all revealed before an exciting, cascading chorus of harmonies.
Part of Dwight’s mastery, and a large part of how he connects so easily to his audience, lies in his ability and willingness to admit the hard truths. The complexities of “Long Way To Go,” which are represented clearly through the inclusion of two distinctly different feeling versions of the song, acknowledges that the road can stretch on for a while. I got a long way to go before I get there, he sings before moving into potently estranged territory with the lines, Touchin’ doesn’t feel like touchin’ until I feel the next touch from you. On the soulful waltz, “It’s Never Alright,” co-written with Ashley Monroe, the pain will always remain because, even when it’s better, it’s never alright.
Dwight produced the record himself, except for two tracks produced with alternative rock artist Beck. “A Heart Like Mine” winds around alienated hopelessness in the chorus with a vintage Roy Orbison feel as he sings, I wonder why you never try to understand a heart like mine. The ¾-time, “Missing Heart,” is introduced with quick acoustic riffs that cut through open chords. Anywhere I looked was always wrong, he sings, searching for what makes him feel alive before an abrupt finish to the song that offers no resolve. And though moments like these present some pretty severe heartbreak, the project also contains optimistic and even idyllic tones. My heart still believes in love, he sings on “Waterfall,” dispelling the lovesick notion that it’s all bad out there.
Dwight is uncompromising on 3 Pears; in sound, theme and approach. Even when he’s flipping traditional roles and pointing a finger at a bar-hopping wife (the brilliant Joe and Rose Lee Maphis classic, “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke”), he’s still the same old “Honky Tonk Man” we’ve always known. There’s an authenticity to Dwight that comes across with a pure note, and on 3 Pears, we’re believing everything he sings.
Listen to the Key Tracks – “Take Hold of My Hand,” “Long Way To Go,” “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke,” “A Heart Like Mine”: