Dwight Yoakam has never fit in with Nashville, even though he sports the requisite cowboy hat albeit one resting so low over his eyes one wonders how he doesnt trip and fall every time he hits the stage. Alt-country might be the trendy label for anything country-western that doesnt suck, but he doesnt really fit in there either. With a sound thats an unholy marriage of country, bluegrass, hillbilly, and Southern rock, the only label thats ever fit him was made up as a means to explain the countrified rock that prospered in the 1980s LA club scene: cowpunk.
His country albums have found success on the country charts, but always appealed primarily to roots-rock fans; he plays country, but his Bakerfield sound and SoCal rock influences sound a lot more club than dancehall; and the Elvis-style sexuality he exudes has always felt a little too dangerous for country fans.
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It all comes back to cowpunk, which doesnt imply that Yoakam plays punk music with a twang or hammers out three-chord hooks about how his gal left him for a guy with a bigger pickup truck. Punk is about attitude and Yoakam has it the independent spirit, the inclination for experimentation, the adamant refusal to conform to any one sound when theres so many to draw from. Its what forced him to abandon Nashville in the 80s for LA and what has kept him from being just another country singer. To even lump this guy in with a proud-to-be-illiterate hick like Toby Keith is just plain ole disrespectful. And after 18 albums in 21 years, the guy has earned your respect if nothing else.