Dwight Yoakam, Faren Rachels | Carolina Theatre | Clubs & Concerts | Indy Week
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Dwight Yoakam, Faren Rachels 

When: Fri., Oct. 27, 8 p.m. 2017
Price: $80-$110

Pour yourself into a pair of ripped-knee jeans you'd have to use a surgical saw to get off, then wriggle suggestively to a throbbing backbeat, cowboy hat tilted down over the eyes. That's Dwight Yoakam's recipe for success, as he demonstrated in the video for his 1993 single "Fast as You."

But Yoakam had already wriggled and moaned his way onto the charts with his 1986 debut, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. His twang, a product of his Kentucky roots, comes naturally. But Yoakam borrowed from Buck Owens's Bakersfield sound, too, which got him branded as "too country" in eighties-era Nashville. But Yoakam stayed true to his roots, racking up three consecutive No. 1 albums from 1986 to 1988, and he's sold more than twenty-five million albums since.

Now critics are after him again, this time for not being bluegrass enough. Yoakam had the audacity to put out what he labeled a bluegrass album, Swimmin' Pools Movie Stars..., which takes its title from the second verse of Flatt and Scruggs' "The Theme From The Beverly Hillbillies." Traditionalists are all aflutter because they think its not really bluegrass, just the addition of a few 'grassy instruments like banjo and fiddle with the same old arrangements of some of his older material. But that's not quite the case. Yoakam's cohorts on the record—guitarist Bryan Sutton, fiddler Stuart Duncan, banjo player Scott Vestal, mandolinist Adam Steffey, and bassist Barry Bales—are all bluegrass superstars who made the recordings as authentically bluegrass as humanly possible. But Yoakam can't change his distinctive voice or his delivery, so it bleeds country all over the place.

The bluegrass remake of "Two Doors Down" has a banjo plunking alongside Yoakam and a fiddle weeping underneath instead of the pedal steel on the original, but the vocal still sounds great, with Yoakam's moaning hiccup intact on this classic barroom tearjerker. It's slowed down a bit, but still powerful as ever, country as all get-out. "Gone" gets the most extensive makeover, its Bakersfield lope discarded for a rattly bluegrass ramble.

Both renditions of "Sad, Sad Music" are fiddle-driven, but the Swimmin' Pools version gets transmogrified into a waltz, or a two-step if you're hopped on caffeine and ready to trot.

Just like when newgrass came around in the seventies, some folks resisted change. Grassy or not, Yoakam remains the real deal, here to stay. —Grant Britt

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