By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


July 12, 2005

Dwight Yoakam
"Blame the Vain"
New West Records

Dwight Yoakam and guitarist-producer Pete Anderson conspired for 17 albums over 21 years before their partnership dissolved a couple of years ago, and "Blame the Vain" is Yoakam's coming-out party as the boss of himself. He ought to give himself a raise.

As producer and sole writer, Yoakam has crafted a fine CD of country weepers and rockers that hit his usual influences -- the Beatles, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens -- while taking a shot at new sounds.

The biggest change post-Anderson, however, is a sense of playfulness that hasn't always been present amid Yoakam's cowpunk cool. The blistering "Intentional Heartache," about a soon-to-be ex who trashes her guy's prized posessions -- a Bud cap, Nicona boots and a poster of Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- opens with bongos and rocks through the fade with a spoken rant ("Connie, put the can of spray paint down!"). The video on is a hoot, too.

And "She'll Remember" opens with Yoakam doing a British-accented intro atop Skip Edwards' prog-rock keyboards.

On the more traditional tunes such as "Lucky That Way," "Three Good Reasons" and the string-adorned "The Last Heart in Line," Yoakam remains confident and convincing.

"Blame the Vain" stands among the best CDs of Yoakam's career.