Picks and Pans Review: The Way Things Were

updated 11/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Dwight Yoakam

Yoakam is far and away the rockingest of the classic-style young country singers to show up on the Nashville scene in recent years. His (mostly) hard-living love songs have the uncanny effect of making you want to keep the beat while you weep.

On this, his fourth release, the engagingly nasal-voiced Kentuckian has put down 14 numbers that, while set in their country ways, aren't afraid to swing. Some of the best cuts are " 'Nothing's Changed Here," with its Patsy Cline—like walking tempo, a nicely rolling "Takes a Lot to Rock You" and the sweetly locomotive "The Distance Between You and Me."

Yoakam, who wrote or co-wrote 10 of the album's tunes, is an artful lyricist, adept at building the earnest conceits that fuel his more playful tune making. Take, for example, "Heart That You Own," in which Yoakam sings: "I struggle each night to find a new way/ To pay what I owe/ Just so I can stay/...I've loved here for years/ Don't know where I'd go now/ 'Cause I pay rent on a rundown place/ There ain't no view but there's lots of space/ In my heart, the heart that you own."

Yoakam gets some help from lately celebrated country diva Patty Loveless on the contemporary standard "Send a Message to My Heart," and he pulls an amazing Elvis soundalike on parts of the otherwise tried-and-true "It Only Hurts When I Cry."

While the album holds many pleasures, the one that really carries the day is Yoakam's ability to mix rockabilly, honky-tonk, ballad and bluegrass into a straight-up country set that combines the proven best of the old with a successful testing of the new. (Reprise)

From Our Partners