Dwight Yoakam’s rebellious streak burns bright


What: Dwight Yoakam with Meghan Patrick and Washboard Union
Where: Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, 1925 Blanshard St.
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. (doors at 6:30)
Tickets: $49.50-$79.50 at selectyourtickets.com, by phone at 250-220-7777, or in person at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre box office

The distance between Dwight Yoakam’s residence in Los Angeles and country music’s home in Nashville is symbolic, to say the least.

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Yoakam, who turned 60 last week, has never hidden his distaste for the commercial workings of country music, or the limits placed on its talents by the Nashville brass who ruled during the era of his 1986 debut.

It wasn’t that Yoakam didn’t try to work within the system. He was repeatedly ignored by Nashville, and in 1978, the product of Pikeville, Kentucky, headed west to California. Yoakam found a burgeoning musical community when he arrived, one that put him in the company of everyone from the Blasters and Los Lobos to Lone Justice and X.

From there, he carved out a unique honkytonk career. He has returned to Nashville to record over the years, including parts of his newest album, Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars …, which arrived last month. But his rebel spirit remains. “That county where I was born was where the Hatfields and the McCoys feud occurred,” Yoakam told Rolling Stone when Swimmin’ Pools was released. “There’s a strong sense of independence and wanting to control your own destiny.”

Yoakam spoke with pride about the Swimmin’ Pools project, his first traditional bluegrass album. For the recording, he reworked past hits Guitars, Cadillacs and Please, Please Baby, both of which were Top 10 hits for Yoakam during the ’80s, into high-and-lonesome songs that would have been perfect fits for the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. No surprise there, given that some of the songs were recorded with musicians who played on the film’s staple song, Man of Constant Sorrow.

“That core bunch of players there in Nashville for those four days was a really fortuitous vortex, with those guys responding to what I wanted to do and me saying: ‘Look, let’s leave it loose and ragged at times,’ ” Yoakam said in a statement. “Rock and roll got some of its swagger from bluegrass. Let’s go back there and show some of that swagger if we can.”

The album closes with an inspiring take on Purple Rain that was recorded the day Prince died.

“I was leaving my hotel to go to the studio, and out of the corner of my eye I saw breaking news on the muted television,” Yoakam told Rolling Stone. “When I walked into the studio everyone was milling around, and I looked at the guys and said: ‘Man, let’s sing Purple Rain. Let’s cut this for him.’ It was that spontaneous.”

Some of the biggest hits in Yoakam’s career have been originals, but he’s also known as a master interpreter.

His twangy tenor slides easily into songs he has written and recorded with others, including Buck Owens, Mick Jagger and k.d. lang, among others.

He will perform songs from all corners of his career Saturday night in Victoria, his first concert here in more than 20 years.


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