My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Dwight Yoakam – ‘A Long Way Home’

Following 1995’s somewhat disappointing Gone, Dwight Yoakam released an album of cover songs and a Christmas album, which were followed by his tenth studio release in 1998. For the most part, A Long Way Home got him back on track artistically, but it was tepidly received at both radio and retail, suggesting that Dwight’s commercial prowess was waning. The album contains thirteen tracks, all of which were written by Dwight and produced by Pete Anderson. Reprise appears not to have given the album much promotion, releasing only two singles, “Things Change” and “These Arms”, neither of which reached the Top 10.

I’ve heard A Long Way Home described as alt-country, but that is only the case in the sense that mainstream country had begun a dramatic transformation in the late 90s and not because Dwight had changed musical directions. If anything, he back-pedaled from the rock-oriented sound that had dominated Gone; there is nothing radical about A Long Way Home. It doesn’t contain any hardcore honky tonk numbers like his early albums, but it does contain a diverse mix of rockabilly and Bakersfield sound, along with some more mainstream, albeit retro-sounding fare. Like This Time, it is an eclectic collection, though it is a much more cohesive set than that 1993 album.

Dwight’s musical influences are apparent throughout this project. “The Curse” sounds like a cover of an old Johnny Cash song, while “That’s Okay” is reminiscent of the old Buck Owens tune “My Heart Skips A Beat.” Further tribute is paid to the Bakersfield sound with “I Wouldn’t Put It Past Me”, while Yoakam channels Elvis Presley on “Listen”. “These Arms” starts out sounding like an old Ray Price shuffle, opening with a fiddle, rhythm guitar and piano, but the production suddenly changes direction by the song’s first bridge, with amped up electric guitars, drums and a swelling string section, resulting in a rather cluttered sound, before reverting back to the original instrumentation for the next verse. The song alternates between the two styles for its duration. It’s a great song, but I find the production changes somewhat jarring and would have preferred a more traditional approach throughout. Released as the album’s second and final single, “These Arms” stalled at #57.

The album’s first single, “Things Change”, a 60s mainstream pop-sounding song that reminds me of an album my dad used to play by The Mamas and The Papas when I was a child, fared better on the charts, reaching #17. “Only Want You More”, another rockabilly number is a bit overproduced and is my least favorite track on the album. “I’ll Take These” is the most mainstream-sounding song on the album; it seems like it would have had a reasonable shot at success as a single, but the label seems to have lost interest in promoting the album following the failure of “These Arms” on the charts.

The best track on the album is the bluegrass number “Traveler’s Lantern”, on which Dwight is joined by the legendary Ralph Stanley. Listening to it makes me wish Dwight would release an all-bluegrass album. I would have sequenced the album a little differently to make this the last track, instead of making it second-to-last, followed by the rockabilly number “Maybe You Like It, Maybe You Don’t.” I do like it, but it provides a less effective close to the album than “Traveler’s Lantern” would have done.

A Long Way Home was Yoakam’s first major label release that failed to earn at least gold certification, but despite its somewhat lackluster sales and failure to produce a major hit, it is an overlooked gem in Yoakam’s impressive catalog. If you missed this one the first time around, give it a try. You’re in for a real treat.

Grade: A

A Long Way Home
can be purchased from Amazon or iTunes.

One response to “Album Review: Dwight Yoakam – ‘A Long Way Home’

  1. Tom January 22, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    …like you wrote razor x, this album is a real gem. putting it into the alt country drawer that sub-genre sound a lot better than it quite often does and really makes you wonder how flat the average country radio fare has become. then again, i stll enjoy listening to mainstream country radio most of the time, but i would gladly drop it, if alt country was only nearly as good as dwight yoakam down with flu still would be.

    i share your view that “i’ll just take these” is such a fine song that not releasing it as a single can only be explained with the fact that it probably was “too country” for that period. “yet to succeed” is another beauty – hopeful hopelessness rarely sounded better. “things change” on its own is a great song – in any genre – but in combination with the moment on the video-clip, when dwight tells her with that wicked facial expression that things had changed – unforgettable. and if you ever find yourself driving on a winding road in the mountains – “same fool” is just the perfect company with its easy flow – trust me, i’m from switzerland and we’ve got a few peaks standing around here. what they did with “travelling lantern” is a piece of mountain soul in a class of its own.

    some are singers, some are artists and then there’s dwight yoakam.

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