My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Dwight Yoakam – “3 Pears”

I miss the days when major label country music artists could be counted on to release albums once a year like clockwork. Not only did it ultimately mean more music in the hands of the consumer, but it also gave the artist a bit of a safety net if he or she wanted to experiment a bit. If an album wasn’t quite up to par, the fans could take consolation in the knowledge that it wouldn’t be too long before a new — and hopefully better — album would be released. But under the current business model, where it’s not unusual for the wait between albums to be five or more years, it is a huge disappointment when an album isn’t to one’s liking. And this is, unfortunately, the case with Dwight Yoakam’s latest release 3 Pears.

In addition to being Yoakam’s first studio album in five years, and his first collection of (mostly) original material since 2005′s Blame The Vain, 3 Pears also marks his return to Warner Bros., the label of his commercial heyday. It could have been — and should have been — one of the biggest events of the year in country music. But unfortunately, the album has little to do with actual country music, and seems to be more influenced by 1960s rock groups such as The Beatles and The Mamas and The Papas than Buck Owens or George Jones.

It’s hard not to like a Dwight Yoakam album, and I should make it perfectly clear that 3 Pears is by no means a terrible album, but it falls short of the high bar set by Dwight’s earlier work and it is not the album I was hoping for. While I wasn’t expecting a Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc, Etc or Hillbilly Deluxe, I was expecting an eclectic set encompassing a variety of styles, with at least a few traditional country numbers to balance things out. Instead, 3 Pears is dominated by too-loud electric guitars, too much reverb and very little that is particularly memorable. The one ostensibly traditional number — a cover of “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke” is obnoxiously overproduced with the loud electric guitars and equally loud and unnecessary percussion taking the place of the fiddle and steel of the classic Joe Maphis and Vern Gosdin versions.

The opening track “Take Hold Of My Hand”, a co-write with Kid Rock, is a pleasant enough toe-tapper that would have sounded at home on Dwight’s 2000 effort Tomorrow’s Sounds Today, but things begin to deteriorate with the second track “Waterfall”, the first of two Yoakam-penned songs with bizarre lyrics (the other song being the title track). It’s clearly meant to be tongue-in-cheek but I just can’t get into lyrics like

If I had a jellyfish
I betcha we would never miss
A single peanut butter kiss or squeeze

or

If I had a big giraffe
He’d have to take a real long bath
And that’s why waterfalls are really neat

Seriously??

The lyrics to the title track are downright incomprehensible, talking about “three pairs” of various items — glasses, shades, shoes, and not the three pieces of fruit implied by the spelling of the title or the album’s cover art. My other big beef with this song is the synthesizer track that would have been intrusive even by 1980s standards.

That’s not to say that everything here is bad. “It’s Never Alright” is a nice midtempo number written with Ashley Monroe, and “Long Way To Go” is an excellent number that is reminiscent of Dwight’s 90s work. An alternate, piano-led acoustic version of the song appears as the album’s closing track. Both versions are highly enjoyable, as is “Missing Heart”, a mostly acoustic ballad that shows that Dwight is still in good vocal form, and that he doesn’t need to overwhelm his voice with loud, cluttered production and reverb effects.

In general, the second half of the album is better than the first half and the album’s better tracks show that Dwight is still capable of making worthwhile music. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll hear any of the songs from 3 Pears on country radio. While I can’t recommend the entire album without reservation, I do think it’s worth cherry-picking and individually downloading some of the better tracks such as “It’s Never Alright”, “Missing Heart”, and both versions of “Long Way To Go”. The rest of the album is just filler. I hope that we don’t have to wait another five to seven years for Dwight’s next project, which ideally would be a back to basics project produced by Pete Anderson. In the meantime, I’ll continue to listen to Dwight’s classic 80s and 90s work.

Grade: B-

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8 responses to “Album Review: Dwight Yoakam – “3 Pears”

  1. Occasional Hope September 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    I was disappointed by this too.

  2. Ben Foster September 26, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    I’ve only heard this album once, and I still need to dig into the song material a bit more, but I agree that the production and reverb does make some of the songs a bit hard to listen to.

  3. Jdub September 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Ok, we’ve now heard from the clueless. Go buy a Taylor swift album, you’ll be much happier.

  4. scooter October 2, 2012 at 12:37 am

    I think this album is disappointing if you are expecting a traditional album- otherwise – it’s at least interesting. The 3 pairs is a reference to John Lennon as he explained in a CBS interview(linked from engine145), I do agree that it is way overproduced. I like the album overall – even the giraffe lyrics.

  5. howard December 30, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    your view on this album is way off…..you have here an album that shines….dwight has advanced a level, and you want him to do only what he has done before and measure that way. he has freshened his style and blazed new paths….evaluate what he has produced here on its own merits. it is refreshing to see my favorite artist move into new territory with grace and ease.

  6. Tom March 29, 2013 at 5:09 am

    …well, razor x, “waterfall” for example is a delightful song. on the one hand, its intro is a fine reference to the “the proclaimers” “500 miles”, while at the same time paying tribute to the great songwriting skills of the late great roger miller, who couldn’t rollerskate in a buffalo herd. one of the things dwight yoakam admired him for. placing also that popular marital-counsellor’s warning label: “keepin’ score too neatly can kill your lovin’ relationship!” in combination with a biological conclusion makes it altogether perhaps a small challenge for the traditional country ear, but a rather enjoyable one. try that peanut butter kiss thing once – not bad at all and potentially leading to all sort of activities.

    overall, i don’t disagree with you, after five years of waiting one has probably hoped for a tad more. then again, what is there more in country music than another dwight yoakam album? i’ve been really diggin’ it, now that it’s been spinning for a week or so in my playing devices and i finally found time to read the lyrics in the liner notes too.

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