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Yoakam Pays Varied Tribute To Music Roots

Sat., June 8, 1996, midnight

Dwight Yoakam Thursday, June 6, the Arena

Dwight Yoakam and the Babylonian Cowboys took the stage Thursday night to the bouncy strains of “Green Onions” by Booker T and the MGs.

It was a great way to open a show that recalled that brief but magical time when there were no borders between rock and country and rhythm and blues.

All the original Sun Records rockers - Elvis, Jerry Lee, Orbison and Carl Perkins - fit that non-mold. Out on the West Coast, Buck Owens was going his own way with a swampy, chooglin’ hillbilly music he called “freight train music.”

Yoakam paid homage to these roots and others in a lengthy, low-tech show that invited listeners for a ride across a landscape as varied as Yoakam wanted it to be.

If you listened carefully, you heard echoes of Marty Robbins, Merle Haggard and Roy Orbison. “Wild Ride” was a Stones-ish rocker, “Near You” shimmered with a Beatles-esque patina and “Gone (That’ll Be Me)” dripped with Doug Sahm border organ.

“Never Hold You” reprised mid-‘60s psychedelic soul, and Dave Alvin’s classic “Long White Cadillac” bristled with a heartland glint.

On the apparent assumption that the audience has come to hear songs, Yoakam presents a stand-up-and-sing show devoid of fancy risers or special effects.

The only showy effect was the grainy - and sometimes very sexy - images that played on five screens behind the stage.

They included chunks of the bizarre but hilarious video for “Sorry You Asked” that stars a spooky Harry Dean Stanton at a David Lynch-ian roller rink.

The show’s standouts were dramatic versions of two new ballads, “This Much I Know” with its martial drum beat and Haggard-influenced vocals, and “Nothing,” a dense, soulful set-piece whose mournful refrain was scored by slicing Pete Anderson guitar solos.

Newcomer David Ball gained steam over the course of his 45-minute set to win big points with “I’m Just the Bottle,” which he dedicated to Johnny Cash, and with “Thinking Problem,” his hit from a while back.

, DataTimes

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