3 Pears by Dwight Yoakam

Dwight Yoakam sounds as fresh as ever on his first album of new material in seven years, 3 Pears.

From the first line of opening track “Take Hold of My Hand,” co-written with Kid Rock, the torchbearer of the Bakersfield Sound announces his return, with his trademark hiccup and nasally voice (hints of which can be detected in the deliveries of artists such as Eric Church) fully intact. It’s as if the years—nearly 30 since his first album, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.—have had no ill effects.

“A Heart Like Mine,” one of two tracks co-produced by alternative-rock visionary Beck, soars with jangly guitars and Dwight’s high-lonesome wail. Road ballad “Long Way to Go” furthers the rambling fever of Merle Haggard.

And the title track engages in a bit of inspired wordplay, turning 3 Pears into three pairs. But it’s “Waterfall” on which Dwight seems to be having the most fun. Thumping, ethereal and peppered with dramatic pauses, the song unfolds almost like a lullaby, with the 55-year-old wondering about jellyfish and giraffes: If I had a big giraffe, he’d have to take a real long bath. . . .

The album concludes with a breathtaking reprise of “Long Way to Go” reinvented as a sad piano ballad, reminding us that, though he’s capable of being playfully satisfied, Dwight is at his best when he’s consumed by yearning.

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