With a rockabilly beat and a voice full of twang, Yoakam has helped hold back the tide of slick commercialism that threatens to turn Nashville from country's Music City into a Muzak mall. And he has done so without many critics noting that his name rhymes with hokum. On a few tracks here, he runs the risk of reminding them, inexplicably adding violin arrangements to otherwise splendid please-don't-leave-me songs. Country wouldn't be country without violin strings, of course, but please, give us only the type that fiddlers, not Philharmonics, play. Luckily, that is the only misstep in this collection of 13 heartbreak ballads and honky-tonk tunes that feature stellar performances by the wonderful band Yoakam has assembled (guitarist Pete Anderson is especially notable). Harkening back to country's pre-Garth era, Yoakam, on one of several standout tunes, "Traveler's Lantern," sounds as if he were onstage at the Grand Ole Opry's former shrine, the Ryman Auditorium, singing with the Carter Family.
Bottom Line: Rootsy country music you won't hear on any elevators