I have an old college roommate to thank for my man-crush on Dwight Yoakam. Gone was the first album he released when I was already a fan, having been introduced to This Time about a year before and then working backwards.
Gone served as a big left turn from the radio-friendly, slickly-produced This Time. In many ways it sits well next to his early traditional country works, but simultaneously sticks out as an odd child of sorts. It’s ten quick country songs that don’t always want to behave like country songs.
If this doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, it is. If you like your country old-school, there’s plenty to be had here. But Dwight manages to dress the frames of familiar country with quirky arrangements and odd instrumentation with traditional instruments, creating an album equal parts playful and lonely. Pete Anderson’s guitar work is at its most creative, while still clinging to his signature twang amidst the departures to rock riffing. Horns pop up to good effect, and Hammonds and Wurlitzers hum underneath.
The conversational snapshot “Sorry you Asked?” stands out, and Dwight gets to flex his Elvis creds on “Don’t be Sad.” There’s always been plenty of rock & roll in his catalogue, but “Never Hold You” may be his best performance in this vein, despite the presence of The Rembrandt’s backing vocals. The sadder songs counter nicely, particularly the closing duo of “One More Night” and “Heart of Stone.”
All things told, while not his most highly-regarded work, it’s the album I find myself coming back to most. It’s concise, focused, and might be the most artistic statement he’s made.