The third effort from Kentucky's Dwight Yoakam shows the first signs of beginning to stretch out and be comfortable with his unique approach to hard honky tonk music, Bakersfield-style. Buenos Noches From a Lonely Room features a number of variations on the themes Yoakam explores in his songs -- mainly heartache. Not since Leon Payne has anyone gone from love that is so obsessive it cares not a whit for the most basic of life's needs ("I Got You"), to a murderous jealousy ("What I Don't Know"), to homicide ("Buenos Noches From a Lonely Room [She Wore Red Dresses]") in the first five songs. In addition, Yoakam and producer/guitarist Pete Anderson are exploring the colorations of other instruments in their mix such as the addition of the legendary Flaco Jimenez's accordion on the title track. The transition tracks between these three facets of human meltdown are the stunning melody in "One More Name" and a radical cover of Johnny Cash's "Home of the Blues." In addition, there's a read of J.D. Miller's "I Hear You Knockin" as an alternate ending, though it's still plenty dark. After the murder in the title track, the cycle is complete, and the album shifts gears radically. It kicks off with a balladic elegy to a worn-out drunk called "I Sang Dixie," full of lilting fiddle and subtle singing leads from Anderson. It's a tearjerker in classic country fashion, its tone almost reverential. Track two is a duet with Yoakam's hero, Buck Owens, who came out of retirement -- briefly -- to record this song and a new album. There's only one song the pair could sing together, the anthem of lost but proud down-and-out ramblers, and that's Homer Joy's "Streets of Bakersfield." The other cover here is Hank Locklin's beautiful love song "Send Me the Pillow" with a return by Maria McKee on backing vocals (she sang a duet on "Bury Me" with Yoakam on Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.). The pair are as natural together as Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris were, though far more traditional in their approach. As chapter three in the Dwight Yoakam restoration of honky tonk music project, this is the best yet. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi

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