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The hits don't come for Yoaka, but the talent shines through

South Shore Music Circus, Cohasset, Mass., July 26, 2001

By Jeffrey B. Remz

COHASSET, MASS. - Dwight Yoakam continues to put out great country albums. Last year's "Tomorrow's Sounds Today" was one of his best ever.

Solid singing, writing and musicianship are the signatures of a Yoakam project.

But one unfortunate aspect of Yoakam's career as it continues it that he seems to have dwindling commercial success. He hasn't had a big hit in awhile. And it's not for lack of quality of trying. He just doesn't seem to be what is au courant in this day and age where pop goes the country at the expense of those rooted in a far more traditional country sound.

And when it comes to concerts in the Boston area, Yoakam has downsized from what was then Great Woods seating about 20,000 to the FleetBoston last year with about 5,500 seats to South Shore Music Circus Thursday with 2,300 capacity.

Fortunately, the qualities that heretofore made for a winning evening of Yoakam music - his singing, a strong backing band and a slew of fine songs - remain ever intact as Yoakam proved once again before a packed house.

Quite simply, Yoakam is one of this generation's greatest country singers. Whether soaking up the Bakersfield sound ("Streets of Bakersfield," for example, originally recorded with Buck Owens) or honky tonk/hillbilly ("Guitars, Cadillacs") or Elvis ("Little Sister," recorded by Presley in 1961), the Kentucky native delivered the songs with ease. He has a bit less of a hiccup in his voice than he used to, but he seemingly glided through songs.

The 90-minute show clicked in particular towards the close of his regular set starting with his cover of Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." Give credit to Yoakam for turning in a very strong version that certainly keeps it country. He did the same with the second song of the evening, taking a turn of Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me" from his last release. Neither song sounds like it should work country style. But in Yoakam's hands, both did.

With the Queen song followed by "A Thousand Miles From Nowhere," "Streets of Bakersfield," "Honky Tonk Man" his very first hit from 1986, and "Fast As You," Yoakam closed on a high note.

Yoakam showcased several new songs from a soundtrack for "South of Heaven, West of Hell" due out to September. The best was "What's Left of You," which Yoakam co-wrote with Mick Jagger.

Throughout the evening, Yoakam was ably backed by his band, including long-time producer Pete Anderson. Skip Edwards did a good job on keyboards and accordion. James Christie set a steady beat, and Scott Joss spiced songs with his fiddle playing.

While the concert was very strong, it was not as good as last year's great night at FleetBoston. That was indeed a magical night, but what hurt the South Shore effort was a decidedly too quickly paced feel to the show.

Yoakam began a bit later than scheduled, resulting in him rushing from one song to the next with nary a break. He did speak several times, albeit very briefly. But his between song patter was more in the form of thank yous than building any sort of rapport with the crowd.

He should be thankful he has the voice and music to overcome that. That's far more than can be said for many of his country music contemporaries, who may be setting the charts afire thanks to marketing machinery, but have far far less talent than Yoakam.

Nashville resident Lonesome Bob opened with a 30-minute solo acoustic set of folk and country. Lonesome Bob, who has done time with Allison Moorer, proved himself to be a good songwriter and singer on the depressing side of life.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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