My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Dwight Yoakam – ‘Tomorrow’s Sounds Today’

Dwight’s final album for Reprise, released in 2000, comprised mostly self-penned material produced by Pete Anderson. A few months earlier, Dwight had re-imagined many of his earlier hits on, and this album feels like a conscious attempt to look forward to a new phase of his career. The sound mixes traditional country with prominent fiddle and steel on many tracks, and three collaborations with Dwight’s mentor Buck Owens, with rock influences. It was a distinctive combination which probably only Dwight could have made.

The catchy ‘What Do You Know About Love’ has a typically insistent Dwight groove but sounds quite contemporary, and was the album’s only (modest) hit single, peaking at #26. It was his last ever time in the country top 40, but is a pretty good song and should have done better than it did.

Dwight’s cover of the rock song ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ had been his last big hit (from the Last Chance For A Thousand Years hits compilation), peaking at #12 in 1999. He attempted to repeat this success by releasing a version of Cheap Trick’s 1970s hit ‘I Want You To Want Me’ as the second single from Tomorrow’s Sounds Today, but it barely scraped into the top 50. It is pleasant enough and doesn’t sound out of place here, but it is rather repetitive and doesn’t really stand out either.

Harking back to his earlier days the album closes with two last duets with Buck Owens. ‘I Was There’, a buddyish cover of a song Buck recorded on one of his late 80s comeback releases, was the final (and sadly non-charting) single. The cheery love song ‘Alright, I’m Wrong’ was written by Pete Anderson, and is served up with some Tex-Mex accordion from Flaco Jimenez; it’s entertaining, but the lyrics don’t work as a male/male duet with swapped lines. Better than either of these, and in fact one of the best tracks on the album, is the mournful steel-laced ‘The Sad Side Of Town’ in the middle of the album, which Buck wrote with Dwight, and on which he sings harmony in a way reminiscent of his legendary sideman Don Rich’s work on his classic recordings.

The album’s title notwithstanding, there is plenty more material firmly rooted in country music’s rich traditions. I really like the melodic ‘Time Spent Missing You’ with its prominent fiddle and steel, mandolin courtesy of Chris Hillman, and close harmonies from Jim Lauderdale. The mid-tempo ‘Heartaches Are Free’ is another highlight, and one with particularly prominent steel.

‘A Promise You Can’t Keep’ is a fine if gloomy country ballad doubting the protagonist’s partner’s words of love with a pain-infused vocal. ‘A World Of Blue’ is a lovely ballad with a sad lyric but relaxed loungy vocal which strikes a faintly jarring note, but sounds good.

Some tracks are less successful for me. I found the jaded ‘Dreams Of Clay’, ‘For Love’s Sake’, and the opening track ‘Love Caught Up To Me’ all rather forgettable. ‘Free To Go’ is catchy enough but has a rather cynical lyric about the transience of love, which I didn’t really like. ‘A Place To Cry’ is rockier and is too loud, cluttered and rushed for my taste. But with 14 tracks, there is room for some experiments to fail.

Overall, this was a solid effort with some high quality material. Although it failed to capture the interest of country radio, it has a lot to appeal to Dwight Yoakam fans.

Grade: B+

Although the CD version is now out of print, Tomorrow’s Sounds Today is easy to find at a reasonable price and is also available digitally.

4 responses to “Album Review: Dwight Yoakam – ‘Tomorrow’s Sounds Today’

  1. J.R. Journey January 24, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    I liked Dwight’s take on ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ a lot better than ‘I Want You To Want Me’. On the latter, he sounds like he’s a bit bored with the lyrics, and the music isn’t at all interesting either.

    This is one of my least favorite Yoakam albums, but maybe I’ll give it a spin again since you think so highly of it.

  2. Anonymous January 24, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    …if there ever was an album made to be played for driving down from airolo to the swiss/italian border in chiasso – this must be it.

    every once in while, i drive from zurich/switzerland to athens/greece. i usually set out around 3.30 am with the cd-charger of my car loaded with 6 yoakam albums and by 5.15 am, i come out of the st. gotthard tunnel on the southern side of the alps, which divide the country quite harshly into a northern and southern part. basically, a great divide running from east to west.

    you may enter the tunnel in rainy or snowy conditions coming from the north and eleven miles later you find yourself in a sunny place – still quite high up in the mountains, but suddenly full of southern promise. the truck stop there serves the first of many coffees and then one of the most emotional drives in world starts.

    hot coffee, a cherokee and this album rotating in the cd player. while the sun slowly comes up from behind the eastern peaks, the highway runs down toward a rather mediteranean landscape in long gentle curves. by the time he sings “what do you know about love” you’re nicely on your way downhill. “free to go” almost works like a steering assistance on a two lane route with barely any traffic at this time of the day. since a couple of little boys and their mum live a thousand miles away in athens and my home is in zurich “dreams of clay” could not be a more fitting musical companion further down the highway. “world of blue” goes perfectly well with daylight outside in the valley and the state of mind inside the car. there may have been a drive or two some years ago, when i’d still wanted her to want me probably, but meanwhile i’ve grown accustomed to the past tense of “i was there”. sadly enough, the songs i didn’t mention are perfectly completing a soundtrack for one of the most beautiful streches of heartbreak that exists on this planet.

    ironically, even the nick of the author seems to fit to this album review – at least, from my point of view.

  3. Razor X January 24, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    I like this album but I wouldn’t rank it as one of my very favorites from Dwight’s catalog.

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