Dwight Yoakam

With his latest release, Dwight Yoakam continues his reign as the King of Contemporary Country. Tomorrow's Sounds is a brilliant collection of classic C&W filtered through Dwight's 21st-century cowboy mind. Guitarist/producer Pete Anderson starts "Love Caught Up to Me" with one of his trademark melodic guitar figures, launching the tune into a four-four rock groove dressed up in singing steel guitar and achey hillbilly harmonies. Like so much Dwight magic, it shifts to pop-bliss territory when you least expect -- in this case, with Memphis soul chord changes in the song's bridge. Yoakam and his mates then slip into uber-honky-tonk turf with "What Do You Know About Love," a juke-joint thriller that calls Rockpile to mind. The song's big question floats above a trainload of forward momentum, with nary a shade of sap or schmaltz.

Throughout this disc, Yoakam wraps his cool, sassafras-tea tenor over twelve more self-penned gems of textbook twang. On the softer side of things, there's "Time Spent Missing You," the Buck Owens-style "A Promise You Can't Keep" and the bittersweet resignation of "Sad Side of Town," cowritten by Owens himself, who joins Dwight here for heartbreaking harmony. (Owens -- Yoakam's idol and frequent compadre -- also appears on the disc's "Bonus Bucks," two tunes that close the recording in delightful fashion.) On the upside of the tempo chart, there's the snappy "A Place to Cry," the Roy Orbison roots pop of "Dreams of Clay" and the two-stepping, Ray Price-like pleasure of "A World of Blue."

On Tomorrow's Sounds, Yoakam continues to dip his boots into sonic forms that seemingly have no kin to country, making such stylistic excursions seem right at home beside more traditional forms. Sure, "For Love's Sake" opens with fiddle and pedal steel like so much predictable country. But the song's heart beats over a near-reggae groove, underneath a pop-standard melody and studio touches that would seem cheesy in less committed hands. This is not fill-in-the-blanks music, by any stretch. Adding weight to Yoakam's blatant blender skills is his western-flavored reworking of Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me," that transforms the rock classic into a dance-floor ditty that will no doubt slip by folks in America's Wrangler-clad boot scooters. All of which makes Tomorrow's Sounds Today a musical gift of the highest order, and the disc's era-encompassing title seem as fitting as kisses under mistletoe. Dwight rules!


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