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Dwight Yoakam

Dwight Yoakam

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Cover StoriesDWIGHT YOAKAM IN CONCERT AT AQUARIUS OUTDOOR AMPHITHEATERThursday, May 21, 2009 9:00 AM PDTWhen a country music singer is considered to be "too country" there are only a few options.

One is to tone down the country a tad and see if that works, and if it does, see if you can live with yourself; another is to quit show business and sell bailing wire and sing for pennies in honky tonks on the side; and yet another is to keep on singing the way you do and "let 'em come around" and see you knew what you were doing all along.You know which path Dwight Yoakam took.The Kentucky native, with the trademark hat worn low over his face and the jeans that appear to be painted on string-bean legs, came out of the Los Angeles club scene with both barrels blazing in 1986.

He took his influences-Elvis, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens-and fused that into his own blend of country and rock.

It was a tip of the hat to his heroes while creating something new.

His double-platinum debut Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., set the wheels in motion for what has become a successful "too country" musical career.The two-time Grammy winner has garnered 21 nominations in the course of his career, while selling more than 25 million albums worldwide.

Five of those albums have topped Billboard's Country Albums chart with another seven landing in the Top 10.

More than 30 singles have charted, with 18 going top 20, including the incomparable hits "Honky Tonk Man," "Please Please Baby," "Little Ways," "I Sang Dixie," "It Only Hurts When I Cry," "Fast as You" and "Thousand Miles from Nowhere."This body of work has earned Yoakam praise from the likes of Time magazine ("Yoakam's a Renaissance Man"); Rolling Stone ("He has no contemporary peer"); and Vanity Fair ("Yoakam strides the divide between rock's lust and country's lament.").It can be seen, Dwight Yoakam doesn't exactly fit any mold.

He kind of makes himself up as he goes along.

So broad is his appeal that he was the only artist to appear this year at both indie rock extravaganza "Coachella" and at the country music festival "Stagecoach".

Critics can't get over how he draws people in no matter their backgrounds or musical tastes.From appearing with Kid Rock on a track for an upcoming album by Eagles' bass player and singer Timothy B.

Schmit and reprising his role as Doc Miles in Crank2: High Voltage to taping an episode of the PBS show "Legends & Lyrics" with Gavin DeGraw and Amy Lee and acting in a new western film called The Last Rites of Ransom Pride, it's a wonder Yoakam keeps his schedule straight.

The good news is there's room for a concert Sunday, May 24, at the Aquarius Casino Resort in the Outdoor Amphitheater.About that acting.Starting with a scene-stealing role as a truck driver in John Dahl's spicy film noir Red Rock West in 1992, Yoakam was an instant presence on the big screen.

However, nothing prepared viewers for his riveting appearance in the Academy Award winning film Sling Blade, for which he received the Premiere Performance Award.

In David Fincher's box office hit Panic Room, Yoakam once again seamlessly shapeshifted into character.

David Smith for the BBC wrote, "Šthe film is stolen by Yoakam."Yoakam made his directorial debut (starring in a screenplay he also authored) with the 2001 release of South Of Heaven, West Of Hell, a gothic western with an ensemble cast that included Billy Bob Thornton and Peter Fonda.

His performance in Tommy Lee Jones' Cannes Film Festival award-winning The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada was effusively praised for its penetrating honesty.

Entertainment Weekly's Sean Smith told USA Today, "As a character actor, he disappears into his roles.

There's something amazingly natural about what he does.

All his characters have this tense undertone to them."Other film credits include The Newton Boys in 1998; The Minus Man in 1999; and the 2003 action-comedy Hollywood Homicide (with Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett).Other honors have come Yoakam's way.

One of the most recent-his induction into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Lexington in 2008."It really is all about my family-Kentucky is that and always will be that," he stated.

"It's an honor that really is one of my proudest because of how emotionally connected to me it will always be."And then there is Buck...While building his career, Yoakam also built a strong friendship with the man who influenced his music the most-Buck Owens.

It was Yoakam who convinced Owens to continue his music career in 1987 after a 10-year absence.

In 1988, they sang the chart-topping duet "The Streets of Bakersfield" that linked them beyond just friendship but also as a successful singing duo."Buck was just full of life," Yoakam remembers of his friend who passed away in 2006.

"We'd known each other since 1987, and somebody had asked him about me, and he said, 'People think we have dinner together every night.' And I said, 'I know, they act like we're just down the block from one another,' and he said, 'Well, it always will be like that, Dwight.' Ours was a friendship that was a combination of parent, sibling and peer..."Owens told one journalist in 1994 that "Dwight is a rebel, an individualist, and I like that about him."In 2007, Yoakam released a musical tribute to his late friend in the CD called Dwight Sings Buck."As much as anything in my life, I'm happy to have encouraged him to want to play music again," Yoakam explains.

"That's why I'd never, ever considered cutting a Buck song.

Buck was still doing them and had recorded them wonderfully.

I never, ever thought that I would re-record Buck's music and certainly never as an album that I did alone.

But then I realized, it wasn't unlike the solo tribute album that Buck did for Tommy Collins, or Merle for Lefty Frizzell."After his death, it was the clearest way I could express my love for him and acknowledge the depth of our friendship.""I never could have anticipated what a journey this album would become for the band and myself.

We thought we could just rehearse Buck's songs and then record them, but once we started, I realized it wasn't going to happen that way.

Each song began to take on its own shape and expression, and the album became as unique a recording experience as any in my career.

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