DC at Night

DC at Night

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Guitars, Cadillacs, and Hillbilly Music

As is the case with most northern boys with Texan Dads, my Father introduced me to country (or country and western as it was then called) music. In the 1950's, whenever my Dad  had control of the turntable, you could expect a lot of Bob Willis and the Texas Playboys, Hank Williams, and Patsy Cline. In the 1960's, his list was augmented with the sounds of Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, and Roy Clark. But, as is often the case with fathers and sons, I rejected my Dad's choices. Instead, I opted for the rock records of the Stones, the Animals, and the Rascals. However, country rejoined my playlist in the late 1970's with the outlaw sounds of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings and the stylings of Dolly Parton, all of whom I still listen to today. In the 1980's, I finally found a country performer to rival my top-all-time-two favorites: the Stones and Bruce Springsteen.  Interestingly, that talent, Dwight Yoakam from Kentucky by way of Ohio, produced turbo-twang music that was a true cross between the Buck Owens music of my Dad and the early British invasion sounds of my youth.

Last night, the 56-year-old Yoakam appeared at the 9:30 Club here in DC, delivering a 2-hour-plus show that could satisfy both pure country fans like my Dad (although for a more complete picture, he did like and play Fats Domino and some Elvis Presley) and classic garage rockers like me.

Yoakam, now supported by a new group of energetic young musicians in their 20's instead of his long-time back-up band led by his former guitarist/producer Pete Anderson, took to the stage in his usual light cowboy hat and poured-into jeans with a Nudie designed jeans jacket and an untucked white shirt. Frequently switching between acoustic and electric guitars, Yoakam, often employing his unique boot-scootin' twist and shuffle moves, led the group in a 28-song and 2-tune encore set that alternated between his older country classics and his more-rock influenced newer tunes, especially those from his latest album Three Pears.

As you might expect, the biggest responses from the all-age crowd came for the older songs. But most of the crowd seemed responsive to the new songs, too. "Thanks for supporting the new stuff," Yoakam told the audience. "I promise I'll play at least 1 old one for every 3 new ones."

That formula was in place for about 3/4's of the show. Hits such as "Streets of Bakersfield," "I Sang Dixie," and "Ain't That Lonely Yet," were surrounded by trios of  new tunes like "Trying," "Blame the Vain," "Waterfall" and the title track of his latest CD. But the new tunes were abandoned for a show-closing run that included "Honky Tonk Man," "Guitars and Cadillacs," and my two all-time Dwight favorites "A Thousand Miles from Nowhere" and "Fast as You."

Yoakam told the crowd his DC appearance was a homecoming of sorts. "I was talking to the owners before the show and I told them I played the old 9:30 Club about a billion years ago when I was 1st starting out and it was named for where it was located," he noted.

He also paid tribute to his varied roots with the 3 covers he included in the set - "Little Sister," a hit for Elvis Presley; "Act Naturally," a Buck Owens original covered by the Beatles and sung by Ringo Star; and a reworked, blistering version of  the Johnny Cash signature tune "Ring of Fire."

Unlike previous times I had seen him live, Yoakam seemed quite comfortable on the 9:30 stage, joked and talked to the audience throughout the night. He went though a whole series of starts and stops with a line from "Streets of Bakersfield" which actually goes "Spent some time in San Francisco." Yoakam took the audience on a quick tour of America with his revised lyric lines. Spent some time in old Chicago. Stop. A few cheers. Spent some time down in Atlanta. Stop. More cheers. When the boos reigned down on the line Spent some time in Philadelphia Yokam indicated he knew his baseball when he quipped, "now, I understand you might have a little rivalry with that city that doesn't let you show your brotherly love." Of course, all this was prelude to the explosion that came when he finally sang Spent some time in Washington, DC.

After the song, Yoakam said, "Where I come from, we would say Warshington. But y'all say we talk funny." But on this particular evening, the hundreds of standing Yoakam fans packed into the sweaty off-U Street club didn't care if it was Washington or Warshington. They didn't care if it was the old 9:30 Club or the newer venue with the same name. They didn't even care if the songs were from the 80's or as new as this week. All they cared about was after a long absence - Dwight Yoakam - their Dwight Yoakam - was back in DC playing for them. And that, and a few beers and a Cowboy hat or 50, was more than enough.

Tales, Tips, and Tidbits
For all you Dwight Yoakam fans who weren't at the 9:30 Club or for those of you who have never really  listened to Yoakam, here are YouTube links to some of the songs he is playing live on this tour.

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