Monthly Archives: November 2012

Country Ain’t Easy

In Hong Kong that is.

Dwight Yoakam’s got a new CD out, Three Pears. It’s his first original album in seven years, a welcome surprise from a guy who’s done more acting than singing lately.

Is it a New Order cover? Jazz fusion? Hell, no.

So I was in HMV Central the other day, to pick up the new One Direction for EO and some other boy band birthday gifties for one of YO’s friends. And I thought: I could really use some Dwight today – what are my chances of finding his latest?

Not great, let me tell you. The popularity of country music in Hong Kong started with Johnny Cash, peaked at Glen Campbell and ended somewhere around “Rocky Mountain High”. George Strait? Never heard of the guy. Miranda Lambert? Not interested. Taylor Swift might sell squillions worldwide – and a stack of her latest was greeting everyone who walked through HMV’s doors – but she’s firmly in the pop camp these days.

I knew it would take some effort, but if you’ve ever seen Dwight live or heard that warble in his voice, you’d know he’s worth it. First, I had to ask the clerk, Joe, where the country section was. He showed me maybe three shelves to the left of jazz, mixed in with easy listening and folk. Carrie Underwood was there, filed between The Brothers Four and Connie Francis. Okay, random. Lady Antebellum was there, and I couldn’t help but notice that they filled a section of shelf about equal to John Denver’s allotment.

Sometimes it’s hard to be a (country) woman.

But Joe the clerk was my champion. I spelled out Dwight’s name and Joe checked their computers and then disappeared. After many frustrating minutes – are you telling me there is only one Dixie Chicks CD for sale and it’s a cheesy, quick-compiled Greatest Hits album? – Joe returned with the goods. I almost hugged him.

The album cover was simple: three pears against a stark white background. No hats, boots or truck bumpers in sight. It’s definitely not your typical country album cover, but Dwight has never followed Nashville’s playbook. He made his name as a student of the Buck Owens-Bakersfield sound: old school and proud of it. He’s had an eclectic acting career, happily playing comedy weirdos or brutal villains. For Three Pears, he got Beck to come in and produce a couple of tracks. Put all that together and I’m looking forward to some boundary pushing, thinking this might be his Van Lear Rose.

Unfortunately, the production on the new album is slicker, fuller, and disappointing in its middle-of-the-road sound. I couldn’t tell what he was going for: a kind of ‘60s pop feel or a big ‘70s Eaglesque rock sound. “It’s Never Alright” could be an amped-up “Desperado” (with horns!) while the Beck-produced “A Heart Like Mine”, I swear, would not have been out of place in an episode of The Monkees.

The twang is still there – just not as rough and ready as in his younger years – and I did find some moments to enjoy. The pedal steel and the ache in “Missing Heart” – the other Beck number – remind me of some of Dwight’s best bittersweet songs, and the lone cover tune, “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke” (by Joe Maphis), is a great honky tonk number.

What I miss is the intimacy of his early work. The songs on Three Pears are too big, too loud, too stadium. I’m not asking for another Hillbilly Deluxe but where are the fiddles, at least? Where’s the man who seems most at home in a beer-soaked, sawdust-floor dance hall? I searched and searched for him. Now I miss him.


Election iPods

The Whitest Shade of Pale. Ever.

In the spirit of and all of the other researchers who’ve worked so hard debunking the whooping great lies swirling around this election, therockmom has taken on the task of finding a picture of Mitt Romney actually listening to music.

Because it’s important.

We’ve heard about Romney’s iPod and the jokes comparing his musical likes to Paul Ryan’s. We’ve heard about Romney’s  taste for Kid Rock and The Killers – lead singer Brandon Flowers is a Mormon btw – and his preference for country. Mainstream country that is. We’ve heard that his campaign staff listed his musical tastes on Spotify (which I’ve just found out you cannot get in Hong Kong!) to try to keep their boss somewhat hip to social media. But you know if you search Google images for ‘Romney wearing earbuds’ or ‘Romney iPod’ or even ‘Romney music’, what do you get? Nothing.

Kind of like those oh-so-pesky details about his budget plans.

I’ve also discovered that out of Romney’s entire Spotify playlist (19 songs total), there is only one song by a woman – “All American Girl” by Carrie Underwood. I hear that, if Romney gets elected, Ms Underwood will remake that song, to be titled, “All American Girl With Ten Kids and Cervical Cancer”.

Now if you do the same search for Obama, you get photos of the President wearing headphones, hanging with Stevie Wonder, chatting with Jay Z and Beyonce as well as some great photoshopped pics of Obama as a DJ, Obama holding a huge boom box and Obama as Elvis on a postage stamp.

This is my favorite of the photoshops.

So it’s easy to believe him when he says he listens to the Fugees, the Stones, the Boss and Nina Simone. On his 2008 playlist, three out of ten songs are by woman.

Every faux blue collar, white boy poser, frat jackass image in one simple photo – genius!

Paul Ryan, of course, is another story all together. The 2012 undisputed king of the backwards-baseball cap, cheesy weightlifting, earbud-wearing totally-doofus school of campaign propaganda. The best description I’ve read about Ryan and his earbuds came from a great blogger who posts under the banner: Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs. He called Ryan’s snaps, “quite possibly the douchiest image ever captured on film.”

I can’t say it any better. Honestly, anyone under 60 who doesn’t see right through Paul Ryan – right through this guy! – is completely deluded.

Now, put on your earbuds and go out and vote!