If Sugarland’s “Stay” stunned you with its stripped-down splendor, you owe it to yourself to check out dwightyoakamacoustic.net – not the domain (which is apparently up for sale), but the utterly charming album put out by the artist of the same name in 2000. Compared to most other major label releases, Acoustic is an anomaly in every sense of the word: it features little more than a voice and a guitar, stretches on for some disc-filling 78 minutes, is comprised almost entirely of self-written material, is packaged without liner notes and indeed even without a proper cover – just a plain white label slapped crookedly onto the plastic jewel case – and is so enthralling that you might want to cancel your plans for the rest of the month.
The consistency of Yoakam’s catalog and sound can sometimes dull the effect of individually great songs, which is why it’s such a treat to hear many of the singer-songwriter’s most important numbers in a setting that forces you to rediscover them. Toe-tappers like “It Only Hurts Me When I Cry” and “Fast As You” have never hopped along more infectiously, and weepers like “Buenas Noches From A Lonely Room” and “Home For Sale” have never sounded sadder, than they do when distilled down to their honky tonk essence and reinvigorated by an expressive guitar and a voice with more twists and turns than a canyon road.
This is some of Yoakam’s best interpretive work and the fullest single-disc exploration of his songwriting gifts. And the a cappella rendition of “Guitars, Cadillacs” that ends the collection? So good.
Check out dwightyoakamacoustic.net at Amazon.