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Yoakam's craft, tradition speak loudest of all

Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, Cal., Aug. 22, 2002

By Dan MacIntosh

LOS ANGELES, CA – Dwight Yoakam was more talkative than usual during his first ever appearance at LA’s Greek Theatre, but his finely crafted and tradition-soaked music still spoke loudest of all. Even Yoakam, who got his big break by the playing LA club circuit, was surprised that he hadn’t hit the boards at this historic venue before tonight. But he made the best of it by bringing along his old club mates, The Blasters, to open, and by giving Hank Williams III the chance to play before a large and appreciative audience.

Yoakam set lists don’t change very much from show to show, which made this concert's newer entries especially noteworthy. Yoakam is prepping a new box set, and so he played a few of its unreleased cuts this night. These included “Louisville,” which he said he first heard played by Jann Browne on one of the "Town South Of Bakersfield” collections, and “Sittin’ Pretty,” which he said is by an Arkansas highway patrolman. “When he isn’t writing tickets,” Yoakam quipped, “he’s writing great songs.”

The show opened with a lot of punch, especially due to Pete Anderson’s guitar magic on the rockabilly of “Little Sister,” and other more guitar-based selections. It lagged throughout the ballad-heavy middle section, but picked up steam again when songs with more bounce, such as “Honky Tonk Man,” anchored the closing section.

Hank Williams III was the real revelation here. On a recent trip through town, the lanky singer tried too hard to look and sound punk-country.

But this time out, his traditional band of pedal steel, standup bass, fiddle, drums and his own acoustic, turned him into a mirror image of his grandfather. Except for song references to weed, he looks and sounds exactly like Hank Sr. It's eerie, to say the least. Songs like “Mississippi Mud” and “One Horse Town” also echo the beautiful simplicity of his grandfather's writing style. If he stays on this path, and if temptation doesn’t do him in first, Hank Williams III is more than likely destined for greatness.

Phil Alvin led the current (and not the original) version of The Blasters through an exciting half-hour of powerful American rock, including “I’m Shakin’” and “Marie Marie.” A daylight spot while fans are still parking their cars, is no enviable placement, but you’d never know it by looking at Alvin’s big grin. He and the band just blocked it all out and let her rip.

You might call this a show of Americana past (The Blasters), present (Yoakam) and future (Hank). You could, but all of these acts are still very alive and well in the present tense.

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