Where the thinking-man’s hillbilly has gone is headlong into the dumps--as in that special place you live when you’ve been dumped. It’s his most thorough look at a single subject, one that’s roomy enough to hold a lifetime’s worth of analysis. Fresh viewpoints, however, are in short supply.
The devil-may-care abandon of “Baby Why Not” gathers emotional heft coming on the heels of the despair that precedes it. But aside from a witty couplet here, a poignant inward glance there, lyrical substance seems to have been an afterthought.
More energy went into clever production touches--the “Ring of Fire” trumpets in “Sorry You Asked,” the vintage Nashville Sound arrangement in “Heart of Stone.” Stylish moods are enough occasionally, but attitude, which has always been Yoakam’s long, skinny suit, carries him just so far.
New albums are rated on a scale of one star to four stars (excellent).