Dwight Yoakam is one smooth operator, a hip-swiveling C&W; playboy with a knowing swagger and music that is firmly rooted in the finest traditions of country music.
At the Universal Amphitheatre on Thursday, Yoakam and his six-man band pushed those old country elements to their limits while adding some new twists, blending rock ‘n’ roll and R&B; into the mix. The result was music that was, as usual, timeless and genuine.
With a cowboy hat pulled low over his brow and wearing leather jeans so tight they looked tattooed onto his legs, Yoakam sang in a voice that was wry, weary and wise, often curling in his throat to the edge of a yodel.
The music was often deeply moving, whether it was during Yoakam’s forlorn wail on “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” or with “Miner’s Prayer,” a quiet ode to his Kentucky coal miner grandfather first recorded for the singer’s 1984 debut EP.
Yoakam doesn’t draw crowds the size of Garth Brooks’, but he remains an important creative force, consistently challenging himself and his audience with music that is intelligent and meaningful. On Thursday, songs like “Sorry You Asked?” (from his new “Gone” album) were full of rich, detailed narratives on luckless romance and wounded pride.
Yoakam’s energy level still reflects his days on the Los Angeles club scene, while he remains forever inspired by the Bakersfield sound of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard (both country music rebels in their day). It’s a thousand light-years away from the cliched pandering of so much Nashville product.