As country radio slouches increasingly toward pop, most hard-core country performers have little choice but to get with the program or pack up for Branson, Mo. But not Dwight Yoakam. On his sixth album, Yoakam pulls off a near miracle: Staying stone country for his core following, and turning progressive enough for radio, without alienating either audience.
The trick is in the instrumentation — updating old-fashioned country shuffles with Elvis Presley attitude and long, Eric Clapton-style guitar outros — and in the songs, such as ”Ain’t That Lonely Yet,” a big pop kiss-off to a black-hearted girlfriend. While Yoakam pays sly tribute to his country heroes, he also makes a stylish tip of the hat to Roy Orbison and John Lennon in ”Fast as You,” his first up-tempo rock song and the album’s premier head-turner. Not everything works — the organ on ”Home for Sale” sounds like a cut-rate funeral home, and ”Wild Ride” is a blatant Rolling Stones ripoff. But otherwise, this is music for the long haul. A-