"Your stuff is so hard, they're gonna think it's rock 'n' roll," a friend once told Dwight Yoakam. Twisting strains of Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, and Gram Parsons into a stripped-down sound wholly his own, Yoakam is one of music's true mavericks, and his body of work is one of the most innovative in all of country. Rooted in the purest country traditions, and wrapped in raw rock 'n' roll attitude, Yoakam's art rivets fans of both genres and remains as utterly original today as when it started burning up the charts in the '80s.
Moving to Los Angeles after an unproductive stint in Nashville, Kentucky-born Dwight Yoakam made a name for himself by reviving the more robust honky-tonk traditions of the Bakersfield Sound--a bold contrast with Music City's assembly-line approach. In 1984, his independently released six-song EP, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., added to the buzz and helped land him on Warner Bros./Reprise. Now, twenty years later comes The Very Best of Dwight Yoakam, a superb single-disc distillation of the four-CD box, Reprise Please Baby: The Warner Bros. Years. With 20 tracks spanning his recording career and sequenced in chronological order, the set rolls along with gusto and verve. While not covering every one of his releases (the Christmas and covers releases are omitted, for example), there are some singles and soundtrack entries that fall nicely into place. --David Greenberger