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Dwight Yoakam: Reprise Please Baby: The Warner Bros. Years


Dwight Yoakam

Album: Reprise Please Baby: The Warner Bros. Years
Label: Reprise/Rhino

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In the late '80s, Dwight Yoakam's adherence to country music's roots made his string of hits a bracing antidote to the milquetoast cornpone that often
surrounded it on Nashville-dominated radio stations. Heavily influenced by occasional collaborator Buck Owens, Yoakam stubbornly stuck to the basics, winning him a rock following that rivaled his country fan base. Of course, as mainstream country became a commercial powerhouse in the early '90s, the genre's definition narrowed considerably, forcing Yoakam to margins he'd share with the likes of Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, and k.d. lang. Though radio has been uncooperative for ages, Yoakam has maintained a visible presence, acting (most notably in Sling Blade), directing (the critically savaged South Of Heaven West Of Hell), and releasing a diverse string of fine albums. A box set spanning four discs and more than two decades, Reprise Please Baby sums up Yoakam's musical accomplishments as they stand, assembling a great primer while luring hardcore fans with a disc of live rarities and polished 20-year-old demos. The box opens with Yoakam's incredible string of '80s hits, reeling off classic after classic: "Guitars, Cadillacs," "Little Ways," "Always Late With Your Kisses," and others serve as a bittersweet reminder that only 15 years ago, it was still possible to hear the likes of George Jones and Merle Haggard–and the young guns they influenced–in heavy rotation on country radio. From there, Reprise Please Baby tours Yoakam's immensely satisfying but lesser-known '90s catalog, extensively sampling albums like This Time and A Long Way Home. This two-disc stretch could stand to have included more of the marvelous voice-and-guitar set www.dwightyoakamacoustic.net, but what did make it shows that Yoakam's creative success hasn't diminished in unison with his radio exposure. A key selling point for Reprise Please Baby (along with three solid but unspectacular new songs on disc three), disc four compiles 76 minutes of odds and ends, opening with fine 1981 demos of such later staples as "This Drinkin' Will Kill Me" and "I Sang Dixie." From there, the set is filled out with a scattershot assortment of so-so live tracks (a seven-minute cover of The Grateful Dead's "Truckin'" is less than vital) and collaborations with Kelly Willis. But by then, Reprise Please Baby has more than settled any arguments about Yoakam's rightful place in modern country's canon.