Classic Album Review: Dwight Yoakam “Guitars, Cadillacs, etc., etc.” His 1986 Debut Helped Change Country Music Back To....Country!

Dwight Yoakam Guitars, Cadillacs, etc., etc.

1986 Debut album of Dwight Yoakam

Dwight Yoakam’s debut album Guitars, Cadillac, etc., etc. was refreshingly different, yet retro upon its 1986 release. The country music sound was still heavy on pop-country strains of “Morning Desire” or “Bop”, but this album and it’s loud, twangy sound, began changing that.

Throughout the early 80’s, Dwight had been steadily building a fan base in California, particularly among audiences often more in tune to the rock music scene. When it came time to try recording, major labels weren’t initially interested, seeing his music as not marketable to a mass audience. Dwight wound up releasing an EP titled Guitars, Cadillacs, etc., etc. in 1984 on the smaller Oak label.

By 1985, the country music scene was changing and Warner Brothers took an interest in Dwight, signing him to their Reprise label. Addtional tracks were recorded and mixed with his EP. The album kept the same title and was released in the Spring of 1986.  Any question about his mass appeal was quickly erased, as the Dwight’s first single, “Honky Tonk Man” became a top five hit. Meanwhile, Guitars, Cadillacs, etc., etc. spent a couple of weeks atop the Billboard country album chart, selling over two million copies.

The disc (or CD) starts off with the aforementioned “Honky Tonk Man”. The song was initially a hit for Johnny Horton in 1956.  Dwight Yoakam made it twangy, yet contemporary.   A sound that was a little bit Horton, a little bit Elvis and Buck Owens, too.  This track brought excitement back to traditional country music fans.  While “Honky Tonk Man” was twangy, even it had nothing on “It Won’t Hurt”.  This mid-tempo number is one of my favorites of Dwight’s. It was not a big radio hit, though.  The song is straight-ahead hard country that would satisfy the most discerning purist. It’s heavy on fiddles, steel guitar, and honky tonk-style piano, and covers two of the most popular topics in country music; lost love and alcohol.

“I’ll Be Gone” would have been a great single.  It has a definitive Johnny Cash-style sound to it and its fast tempo would have played well on the radio.  Dwight penned “I’ll Be Gone”, as well as “South of Cincinnati”. The latter a slow, wailing number that is perfectly suited for his style of singing.   This is one of the outstanding selections of the album.

Beware the woman scorned!  That’s the warning of another Dwight Yoakam-penned tune, “Twenty Years”.  It’s alright, with a good beat.

“Ring of Fire” and “Heartaches by The Number” are capable remakes of two classics from Johnny Cash and Ray Price, respectively. “Ring of Fire” becomes more rockabilly, here, and that’s works well. “Heartaches by The Number” also comes off well.

Songs about coal miner’s and their plights have been around as long as country music. From Vernon Dalhart’s “The Death of Floyd Collins”, to Merle Travis’ “Dark as A Dungeon”. Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons” (written by Travis), up to Dave Dudley’s “Last Day in The Mines”.  “Miner’s Prayer” compares very favorably to these classics.   In addition, Dwight wrote it in such a way, that, even though it’s about miners, anyone who’s worked a job they don’t particularly like, but do it to provide, can identify with it.  This song would also make a great bluegrass record.  Does anyone know of a bluegrass version?

It’s worth noting that except for the three remakes, Dwight Yoakam wrote every song on the album. That was a bit of an unusual feat, back in the eighties for a newcomer.  I rate this album a 5 out of 5.  This is one of those albums that should be in your collection, if it’s not. And it sounds just as fresh and exciting as it did when it was released back in 1986.  An album to play loud.

 

Mike The Country MusicologistAbout Thy Author

Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, focusing on classic country and top 40 oldies music. After convincing Vincennes University in Indiana to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting, he has spent most of his adult life on the radio, having worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina, including his current gig, hosting the weekly World Famous Ultimate Twang Radio Show. Hear the show on Thursdays, 4-7p ET on WSFM-LP/AshevilleFM, which is at 103.3 FM in Asheville, North Carolina, as well as online at ashevillefm.org. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

 

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