Dwight Yoakam sees several parallels between his new album, Second Hand Heart, and his 1986 debut album, the alt-country classic Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.
“It feels in a strange way connected to the very first record, Guitars, Cadillacs in the way that it came about,” Yoakam says in a recent phone interview
“That album [Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.] was an EP originally, and then Warner signed me in ’85 and I re-released it in January of ’86 as a full-length…And this one has its own, it’s almost as if that album had its own journey and a couple of lives.”
As Yoakam suggests, both Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. and Second Hand Heart include songs that had a previous life before being redone in somewhat different ways for the two albums.
Several songs from Guitars, Cadillacs surfaced on an independent EP that was later supplemented with other songs and re-released as the Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.
Second Hand Heart, includes a few songs that had been gestating with Yoakam for some time. “V’s of Birds,” was a song Yoakam had thought of covering as far back as the mid-1990s.
The title track was written and under consideration for Yoakam’s previous release, the acclaimed 2012 album 3 Pears, while another original, “Dreams of Clay,” originally surfaced in a far different form on the 2000 album Tomorrow’s Sounds Today.
“The [new]album kind of created itself. And you know, funny enough Guitars, Cadillacs…the first album did that,” he says. “It was an example of the album leads you to where it’s going to go.”
Another parallel is both Guitars, Cadillacs and Second Hand Heart are on Warner Bros./Reprise Records, the label Yoakam called home for his first eight albums before parting ways and releasing his 2003 album, Population Me, and his 2005 album, Blame the Vain, on independent labels.
What’s more, both Guitars, Cadillacs and Second Hand Heart were recorded in the same studio—the legendary Capitol Records Studio B.
“That room’s just flat out got magic in it,” Yoakam says. “Let’s see, the first six studio albums of my career were done at Capitol Studios, Guitars, Cadillacs through Gone. So that feels like home always.
That room doesn’t lie. You better be on your game when you go into B because it just spits back to you in your face exactly what you just did.”
But what might be the biggest link between the two albums is an attitude Yoakam brought to the projects—a spirit, as he put it, of “reckless abandon, mischief making and fun” that reminded him of why he wanted to make albums in the first place.
It’s a feeling he says has been present at times on all of his albums, but was never articulated as well as it has been with certain songs from 3 Pears and now Second Hand Heart.
“You hear it on all of the albums,” Yoakam says of that reckless abandon. “You hear it on things like ‘Long Way Home.’ Another song that would have that expression in it would be ‘Only Want You More’ a raved up rockabilly coming-off-the-rails [kind of song]. And in [the 1995 album]‘Gone,’ I think the song ‘Never Hold You’ has a bit of that thing. But left to my own devices, I’m pushing more kind of the envelope maybe on 3 Pears and now this [album], in terms of the sonics of it.”
That sort of full-throttle, hard-rocking sound pops up on the new album in Yoakam’s cover of “Man of Constant Sorrow,” which was made famous on the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack, and his original, “Liar.” On those tracks, Yoakam amps up the beats, lets the guitars rip and rocks out with the kind of abandon he’s only occasionally displayed on earlier albums.
“Yeah, that’s a collision of the Ramones ambushing Bill Monroe,” Yoakam says of his take on “Man of Constant Sorrow.”
If Yoakam rarely rocked as hard on his earlier albums as he does on “Man of Constant Sorrow” and “Liar,” his sound nevertheless proved very successful, especially during the first decade of his career.
A native of Pikeville, Kentucky, who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, Yoakam came to Los Angeles in 1977, inspired by the rocking country sounds of Bakersfield-based Buck Owens and the Sweethearts of the Rodeo-era Byrds.
He scuffled for several years before getting signed by Warner Bros., and releasing the chart-topping Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc. album. It started Yoakam on a commercial roll that has produced 22 top 20 country singles and nine platinum albums. His total album sales stand at 25 million.
Yoakam figures to play a career-spanning set in his live shows, and a couple of members of his touring group also played extensively on Second Hand Heart, lending a continuity to the album and live show.
“It’s just gratifying to have the musicians I’m working with on stage work on the record with me,” Yoakam says. “There is a purity of energy and intent that you capture.”
Dwight Yoakam, Harrah’s Ak-Chin, 15406 N. Maricopa Road, Maricopa, caesars.com/harrahs-ak-chin/shows, Thursday, December 10, 4:30 p.m., free