Dwight Yoakam

“In another time and place,” sings Dwight Yoakam on the buoyant “In Another World,” the opening track on Second Hand Heart, the brilliant new album that takes the pioneering honky-tonker back to Warner Bros./Reprise, where he began his major-label recording career thirty years ago. Yoakam’s distinctive, supple vocals, accented with his Kentucky croon, sound as strong today as they did on his debut, 1985’s Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc. Its release immediately yielded hit singles, and over the course of some 21 albums – totaling more than 25 million in sales worldwide – Yoakam has continued to passionately sing, write, and play music brimming with hard country and rock & roll. Second Hand Heart was self-produced by Yoakam, and reflects where he’s been, but even more so, where he’s going: “’In Another World’ guided the rest of the album,” says Yoakam. “It became its statement – about surviving and hope.”

“When you’re around Dwight, you get this sense of urgency,” explains Warner Bros. VP of A&R Lenny Waronker, executive producer of Second Hand Heart. “He’s like somebody who’s just starting his career – almost like this is his first record. He’s on ‘rewind’ in a way. There’s a certain kind of energy, power, that makes it sound so youthful. It’s very unique. A lot of it goes back to his main strengths: his vocal, which is unchanged, and his songwriting. Plus, the power of the guitar playing and the power of the songs add up to a really wonderful record.”

Following a stint at New West Records and 2012’s well-received 3 Pears on Warner Nashville, Yoakam reconnected last year with Warner/Reprise. He took his killer touring band into L.A.’s venerable Capitol Studios, Studio B, where artists like Buck Owens, Gene Vincent, The Beach Boys, and Ray Charles cut classic sides in the ‘50s and ‘60s. “This record’s made completely without auto-tune or time correction,” vouches Chris Lord-Alge, the multiple Grammy-winning engineer who mixed Second Hand Heart and co-produced (with Yoakam) three of the LP’s tracks. “Nobody really sings like this guy, and no one sings as in tune as he sings. His work ethic is from an era before technology made everyone lazy.”

“Dwight wears so many hats but doesn’t get in his own way,” Waronker points out. “It’s hard to write the song, perform the song, play the song, and produce it. He’s a great guitar player and comes up with riffs that make a song. And you can tell he’s having fun doing this.” The catchy “She,” one of eight originals, is a textbook case of Yoakam’s Epiphone Casino leading the way.

His deep knowledge of music history seeps into his own sonic playbook, with hints of Elvis, The Everly Brothers, The Beatles, and The Beach Boys, among other influences, coloring the album’s songs. Yet once Yoakam “puts his hillbilly voice on it” – as he refers to that magnificent instrument – he makes it his own. He was thinking of Brian Wilson and Pet Sounds, he says, when he envisioned the soaring harmonies on the guitar-propelled “In Another World” to complement the song’s inspirational bridge: “Your tortured heart’s/soft anguished pleas/rescued by love/shall be set free.” “The lyric became a sort of rock gospel,” Dwight muses.

Second Hand Heart does not sound labored over; it has a loose, spontaneous feel. “Dwight clearly understood that perfection is the enemy, in a way, on this record,” says Waronker. Yoakam and his band (Brian Whelan on keyboards and guitar, Eugene Edwards on lead guitar, Jonathan Clark on bass, and Mitch Marine on drums) cut the basic tracks live in the studio, often on nights off between gigs as they toured the country with Eric “The Chief” Church. The hook-filled title track was road-tested, winning over audiences, while other songs came together in the studio. “I would teach the band something on the spot,” Dwight says. “We’d rehearse it a couple or three takes, then do it.” One of those – which bursts with what Yoakam calls “the spirit of teenage recklessness” – is the raucous “Liar,” sounding like a lost nugget from a ‘60s garage-band compilation (he likens it to sounds from the Kinks or Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels). Another rave-up, a dynamited “Man of Constant Sorrow,” kicks off with a blistering guitar solo before Yoakam employs his emotive twang (and hoots ‘n hollers), while the band rocks out – like "Bill Monroe meets the Ramones,” says Dwight, who remembers his early days playing Hollywood dives with cowpunkers Rank & File, Lone Justice, and The Knitters. Meanwhile, his “psychobilly” number “Off Your Mind” finds “Johnny Cash colliding with Roger Miller,” he says, referring to the track’s loping rhythm (Tennessee Three style) and conversational vocals and wry lyrics (a la Miller).

“Songs never die – they’re just reborn,” Yoakam quips, referring to a pair of keepers: “Dreams of Clay,” originally recorded as a big Orbison-style ballad in 2000 but never released as a single, was re-envisioned in the spirit of “Suspicious Minds”-era Elvis. The rockabilly homage “Big Time” started life as a 1989 Levi’s commercial starring Yoakam (the original demo is one of three bonus tracks on the deluxe version of the album). He discovered the breathtaking ballad “V’s of Birds” when its author, Anthony Crawford – a former sideman for Yoakam as well as Neil Young – recorded it for Pete Anderson’s label. “I heard the poetry of the opening verse and thought it was like something out of a Faulkner novel,” says Dwight. “And I loved the melody.”

Layers of chiming guitars (think: The Byrds) characterize the sonics of “Believe,” the transcendent ballad whose message “embodies the whole album in that one song,” Yoakam asserts. “Even in the total dark/I know we can find a spot/with dreams,” he sings, and we believe him.

“All of us have that need to remind ourselves that life is always worth trying, every day – surviving to hope,” Dwight says. And with Second Hand Heart, the man with many hats intends to do just that.


William Clark Green

William Clark Green
Ringling Road
William Clark Green Is not one for pulling punches. Where some songwriters trade in subtlety
and dancing around blunt truths with clever feints and metaphor, Clark aims his words straight
to the point and, when needed, right through the heart. His music is unrelentingly direct and
hard-hitting, too, charged with a palpable rock ’n’ roll immediacy that’s as evident in his most
intimate solo acoustic performances as it is in the full-tilt band shows that have packed rooms
across his native Lone Star State from the Blue Light in Lubbock to the world’s biggest honkytonk,
Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth. And with the April 21st release of Ringling Road, his
eagerly awaited fourth album, Green is set to make his biggest impact on the booming
Texas/Red Dirt music scene — and beyond — yet.
But just don’t call him the “Next Big Thing,” because as Green makes patently clear on Ringling
Road’s riotously myth-busting opening track, that’s a laugh, buddy. And even with tongue firmly
in cheek, William Clark Green is only interested in being real.
“Oh it’s hard to pay your dues when there ain’t no money in the bank
It’s a shame
I gotta make it to the show but there ain’t no gas in the tank
It’s insane
what you do for a broken heart and some busted strings
And everybody saying I’m the next big thing!”
“I’m actually a little nervous about what people are going to think of that song, and if they’ll think
I’m being an asshole,” Clark admits with a laugh. “And that’s not the case at all, because it’s
actually sarcastic as hell. But we’ve been hearing that ‘you’re the next big thing’ thing for a long
time now — and I’m guilty of saying the same to some of my songwriter friends who are
struggling out there, too. And even though it’s always meant in a nice way, you can’t help but
think, ‘What? I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m actually sleeping in my truck tonight!”
Not that he’s complaining. Green is nothing if not fully committed to his chosen path. Granted,
had a few chips fallen a little differently, he could have just as easily — and happily — devoted
his life to ranching, but fate dictated pretty early on that he was meant to be a troubadour. He
may have started taking guitar lessons at 13 primarily out of boredom — his family had just
moved from Flint, Texas to College Station in the summer, and he didn’t have any new school
friends yet — but it wasn’t long before he developed a keen interest in songwriting. A healthy
obsession with his father’s copy of Willis Alan Ramsay’s classic 1972 debut had a lot to do with
that (“That’s still the best album I’ve ever heard, and the reason I use three names,” Green
enthuses). So did timing: “I remember seeing Robert Earl Keen and Pat Green and even Jerry
Jeff Walker at the Wolf Pen Creek Amphitheater in College Station when I was in high school,”
he says. “The scene was really kind of in its birth then, and I was right there in the middle,
paying attention and really intrigued by all of it.”
College originally wasn’t part of his game plan — “I was a very poor student, and I still wanted to
be a cowboy” — but after a lead on a ranch-hand job fell through and a miserable two-week stint
at a feed lot scared him straight, Green enrolled in junior college and eventually found his way to
Texas Tech. He majored in agriculture economics, but spent more time songwriting and playing
guitar at every open-mic night and hotel bar gig he could find than actually studying. By the time
fellow Red Raider and Texas country rising star Josh Abbott handed him the keys to his
Tuesday-night residency at the Blue Light, Green and his own band were on their way.
“That’s when things got really serious for me,” Green recalls. “I came out with my first record
[2008’s Dangerous Man], and it kind of got to the point where I knew if I was going to pursue
music, I’d have to give it everything I had, because there’s just no room for half-assing it in this
business. School went to the wayside — I ended up graduating, but it took six years because
music was my priority. And here I am now at 28 — about to release our fourth album and hoping
to get to five before I’m 30. That’ll be a pretty quick turn around, but that’s the goal.”
The aforementioned “next big thing” rumors started up in the wake of his second album, 2010’s
Misunderstood, but it was 2013’s Rose Queen that proved his real breakthrough. Green
recorded the album, produced by Rachel Loy in Nashville, at a real crossroads in his career —
with momentum and high expectations at his back but barely enough money in the bank to foot
the bill (and that only after a desperate call for help to angel investor Wade Bowen saved the
day). “It was a huge leap of faith,” Green says today, “but I told the band, ‘We’re going to pull out
all the stops, and we’re going to find a way to make exactly the record we want to make and
need to make.” The end result was a triumph, yielding Green’s first three top-10 Texas Radio
hits, including two chart-toppers in “She Likes the Beatles” and “Hanging Around” (the former
also won “Song of the Year” honors at the fan-voted Lone Star Music Awards).
Of course, all of that set the bar even higher for the follow-up — and Ringling Road delivers in
spades. Returning to Nashville to team once again with Loy (Green calls working with the gifted
up-and-coming producer “the best decision I’ve ever made in my musical career”), the band
overcame a a couple of early setbacks — longtime drummer Jay Saldana had recently left for a
new gig with Wade Bowen, followed by guitarist Steve Marcus breaking his arm a week before
they went into the studio — to come through like champs under pressure. Saldana ended up
coming back as a guest to drum on most of the record (along with new band member Ryan
Garza), while the lead guitars duties were initially shared between Nashville session vet Kenny
Greenberg and band friend Josh Serrato, recruited out of fellow Texas band Six Market
Boulevard for what originally supposed to be “fill-in” duty. By the time Marcus’ arm healed up
enough for him to join the sessions halfway through, though, Serrato had been promoted from
temp to full-time band member. Greenberg ended up staying on for the rest of the record as
“All three of those guys are monster talents on guitar, so It was a really incredible experience to
have them all working with each other in the studio,” Green marvels. “It all just happened the
way it was supposed to, and we weren’t going to get in the way of that!”
With that formidable triple-guitar threat augmented by Green on acoustic, seasoned band
member Cameron Moreland on bass and key assists from Loy and others on background
vocals and a few other instrumental tracks, it’s no wonder that Ringling Road boasts the fullest
sound of any WCG album to date. But as has been the case since day one of Green’s career,
it’s the quality of his songs that ultimately makes the boldest statement. And it’s not just the flatout
rockers (“Next Big Thing”) and irresistibly catchy, up-tempo numbers (“Sticks and Stones,”
“Creek Don’t Rise,” “Going Home”) that hit hard, either. Other highlights include “Old
Fashioned,” a stirring elegy for a bygone Texas (“The interstate’s pumping just like a vein full of
California license plates”), and the uproarious, Todd Snider-worthy title track, which takes its
name from a real road in Green’s current hometown of Eastland, Texas. Back in the day, the
Ringling Bros. Circus used Eastland as a regular resting stop between shows, where the
elephants and other animals were let off the train for a drink and the myriad circus folk would
unwind and do whatever circus folk usually do on their nights off. As colorfully imagined by
Green and co-writers Ross Cooper and Randal Clay, that was a helluva lot more wild and
entertaining than the actual ticketed performances.
“Ross is a good friend of mine from Lubbock, and Randal is a guy he met in Nashville who was
actually a roustabout for 10 years,” Green explains. “I mean, what better way to write a song
about the circus than to write it with a guy like that? Randal brought in a lot of truths about what
really does happen behind the scenes in the circus. To be honest, after I told them about
Eastland and the history of Ringling Road, he and Ross just got going on this tangent that was
so good, I kind of just sat back and was like, ‘keep going!’”
“Ringling Road,” the song, may be a freak-show blast, but the rest of the album is hardly all fun
and circus games. “Final This Time” is a devastatingly frank post-mortem of a divorce Green
witnessed between two close friends. “Fool Me Once” and “Hey Sarah,” two of the three songs
(along with “Sticks and Stones”) that Green wrote solo, are unflinching accounts of his own
firsthand experiences at bad (or at least uncertain) love. And the lead single “Sympathy”
(already a No. 1 on Texas radio) offers anything but sympathy to a former lover looking for a
shoulder to cry on.
Most brutal of all, though, is the hauntingly plaintive “Still Think About You,” in which the kind of
sympathy Green does offer an ex comes laced with painfully bitter honesty: “Sorry that you fell
in love with someone you could never inspire …”
“You know, it’s not that I’m an asshole,” Green says again, laughing. “But I feel like everybody
has those selfish feelings sometimes, but they’re never said in songs. I actually showed that
song — I had the chorus written but still needed the verses — to Randy Rogers and Sean
McConnell, and they both went, ‘oh, that’s not my style.’ And I thought, ‘Well, maybe this is a
terrible idea …’”
Before giving up on it, though, Green showed it to one other trusted friend: Kent Finlay,
songwriter’s songwriter, founder of the legendary Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos,
Texas, and, not for nothing, Green’s co-writer on Rose Queen’s hit single “Hanging Around.”
Sage soul that he was, Finlay — who sadly passed away on March 2, 2015 after a long illness
— took a shine to the unfinished song at first pitch.
“I took it to Kent and said, ‘I’ve got this song, and no one seems to like it,’” Green recalls. “But I
played what I had for him, and he went, ‘Oh, I like that!’ And I was like, ‘Thank God, finally
somebody does!’ So we ended up finishing it together, and I’m really glad we did.
“Taking uncomfortable feelings like that and putting them to paper and writing songs about them
— that’s kind of been my staple, really,” Green continues. “And that song is about as true as it
He pauses on that thought for a moment. “Now, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad
thing,” he adds with a laugh, “but I guess the truth prevails! And that makes me able to sleep at

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