Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dwight Yoakam, "Mercury Blues" (2004)


Dwight Yoakam has never yet quite somehow connected with me. Or had not anyway, until this steamy little cooker was called to my attention. Everything about him has always seemed slightly overdone to me. The big hat is just the most visible symptom. There is also the Hollywood career and the piercing operatics of his voice, neither of which, I suspect, would everyone be inclined to consider weaknesses on his part. The album is Dwight's Used Records, a covers project and general sopping-up exercise, gathering tracks from all manner of origins, tribute albums, one-off duets, stuff from the vault, etc. (More reason for misgivings about Yoakam are the projects that seem slightly gimmicky: was the album before this I had tried.) But "Mercury Blues"—a standard written in 1949, with which Alan Jackson had the most success, in 1992—is done just right, everything about it, starting with choosing it to record. Others who've taken a crack include Steve Miller, David Lindley, and Meat Loaf (in 2003). I don't know the rest of Dwight's Used Records that well, except that it's presently kind of hard to find. But the more I sit here playing "Mercury Blues," the more I think I should maybe look into it. This song has got such a sharp, smoldering quality to it—the quasi-Hammond organ fills have a lot to do with that, working an uptempo boogie groove, but the whole band is excellent and Yoakam has never sounded better to me, welling in and up and around this mess, hitting all the right notes hard, and then stepping back to let the electric guitar player hit a few. Is that him? 'Cos that crazy sound is the most, man. It's slick, tight, and I wanna hear it again.

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