PLAYING AROUND

Dwight Yoakam's Hillbilly Heaven

He strutted through 40 years of hits from 'Honky Tonk Man' to 'A Heart Like Mine'

Dwight Yoakam
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From getting hacked with a lawnmower blade by Billy Bob Thornton in the classic "Sling Blade" to once being described as Johnny Cash's favorite country singer, Kentucky-born country star Dwight Yoakam is versatile.

He's successful, too. The 56-year-old Yoakam has sold upwards of 25 million albums worldwide over his four-decade career. He didn't disappoint a packed house at The Florida Theatre March 5.

Yoakam blasted his hit "Honky Tonk Man," the song that introduced the singer to the masses, to an enthusiastic crowd. Yoakam's 1986 cover of the Johnny Horton original reached no. 3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, and its music video was the first country music video to ever play on MTV.

When Yoakam strutted his signature shuffle, he received bursts of applause from the crowd. He performed tunes from his early albums, "Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc." (1986) and "Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room"(1988), to his newer albums, "Blame the Vain" (2005) and "3 Pears" (2012).

"Thank you all for listening to our new stuff and giving it a chance," Yoakam said. "We didn't ask you guys beforehand, so I guess you didn't have much of a choice, though."

Yoakam peppered the set with these quips and other funny anecdotes between songs.

"A Heart Like Mine", a single off of "3 Pears," was voted the 39th best song of 2012 by Rolling Stone -- and for good reason. The song is adventurous and it transcends genre, as Yoakam has done his entire career. It's catchy, offering a twangy steel-guitar riff during the verses, and drawn-out indie rock style chorus. The "hook" of the song sticks in your head for hours after you hear it.

Yoakam's lead guitarist, 39-year-old Gene Jaramillo, wore a rhinestone blazer and looked like a last-second fill-in Yoakam picked up from some punk-rock band. He didn't play like one, though. Jaramillo added incredible leads to Yoakam's classic and current songs, without overpowering them.

Yoakam couldn't finish the show without playing his 1986 single, "Guitars, Cadillacs." This B-side song turned smash hit peaked at no. 4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks and is nothing short of a classic. You don't often hear deep lyrics like "Ain't no glamour in this tinsel land of lost and wasted lives; painful scars are all that's left of me" on the radio today.

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