First Listen: Dwight Yoakam, 'Second Hand Heart'

April 6, 2015 3:03 AM

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When Dwight Yoakam was making his first demos in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, a producer told him that his sound was "so hillbilly, they're going to call it rock 'n' roll." He was pointing to both the rawness in the Kentucky native's sound and its wicked precision, grounded in the great virtuoso art of bluegrass; and the depth of lyrics balancing the plainspokenness of Ohio Valley people who raised him and their eloquence, born of Bible reading and family-transmitted ballads and tales. "I've done a lot of miles on hillbilly highways. I mean hillybilly highways," Yoakam told interviewer Will Welch in 2006. "I don't mean stuff that comes out of the flatlands; I mean stuff that's like a corkscrew. And it was rough ridin' for me as a kid and I've done it a lot, and that's what I was writing about."

As a central player in the Southern California roots-punk revival, and later as a full-fledged country star with plenty of radio hits, Yoakam often traveled another curvy road: the Grapevine leading from L.A. to Bakersfield, where Merle Haggard and his eventual mentor Buck Owens kept Appalachian plu...

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