What a strange album title. What a strange album cover.
If ever there was a cover and a title that told you absolutely nothing about the contents therein, here it is.
But what a great album!
2013 marks seven years since the release of the last Dixie Chicks record, The Long Way. The Courtyard Hounds have intervened in the meantime, but Natalie Maines has been disappointingly silent, which would seem to give comfort to her right wing idiot critics, the kind of people who defend the the right to kill children under the second amendment to the US constitution, but then sign petitions to deport people who express dissenting views, ignoring the first amendment, that pesky freedom of speech thing.
How did I get onto the Dixies? Well, like them, Dwight Yoakam took a really, really long break between this (3 Pears) and his previous album, Blame the Vain, released in 2005. Two thousand and five, fact fans, was when man invented fire.
Blame the Vain was a strange and ungrammatical title, too, so you wonder what Dwight was smoking. 3 Pears is some kind of pun, I reckon, because the lyrics to the title track refers to “pairs” of glasses, and “pairs” of feet. Or do they?
Whatever. From the opening bass riff on the opening track, “Take Hold of My Hand”, this record is compelling. It does everything that Mr Yoakam always did so well. It’s full of honky, and it’s full of tonk, and it sounds like timeless hard rockin’ country music (“Dim lights, thick smoke, and live, live music”), but it also sounds very modern. The bass on that opening riff sounds so clean and so clear and so punchy. You really want to turn it up very loud indeed. And that’s me talking, the one who always complains that bass is overrated.
You know you’re going to love an album when you get to the fourth track and you haven’t heard a dud yet. Track 4, “Trying” comes at you in great chunks of hard-strummed acoustic guitar, twangy telecaster, bouncy bass and a thumping backbeat that actually gives the impression that everybody concerned was actually listening to each other.
Five stars, five stars, five stars, five stars.
This takes me back, and I mean in a really good way, to the first time I heard Guitars, Cadillacs etc. etc., sometime around 1986. A friend had lent me a tape, but as you do, I didn’t believe he had anything to teach me, know-it-all that I am and was. And then I got into a drinking session with another friend, and we put on the hilarious “new country” tape for a laugh. Boing. I’ve never had such a musical revelation. Lightbulbs, heads, etc. etc..
Such comparisons are invidious, because it sounds like it does when someone tries to tell you that the latest Dylan effort is his “best since Blood on the Tracks,” and you think, “no it’s not. Because Blood on the Tracks wasn’t even his best since Blood on the Tracks.”
But. This. Is. Better. This is a stronger selection of songs, better produced, and better performed, than anything Mr Yoakam did in the 80s. And his output since then has been intermittently good, but patchy at best. Blame the Van was a lot patchy. “Even when it gets better,” he sings on this, “It’s never alright.” But it really is.
I haven’t been as enthusiastic about an album since Tift Merritt‘s See You on the Moon, which I played ten times in a row. I don’t do “Top 10” type lists, but if I did, if I did, this would be a clear 2012 winner. Actually, the best album I bought in 2012 was Late for the Sky, but the best album I bought in 2013 is probably this.
Because there was a long hiatus, between 2005 and 3 Pears, and I really almost didn’t buy it. So I kind of saved it till January, knowing there wouldn’t be much coming out around now.
If you’ve been wondering where to start with country music? Start here. Because this is a classic.