You get the sense Dwight Yoakam's still "country" 'cause he needs the hat and looks good in leather pants that end in boot points; otherwise he might have switched genres long ago, having tapped this one bone-dry. Not that Population Me, his first since parting ways with longtime home Reprise, doesn't swing like his old stuff -- it's that, well, it just sounds like (and sounds just like) his old stuff, which is to say everyone else's stuff squeezed through his pleasantly clogged pipes. Meaning, Earl Scruggs's banjo shows up on the no-d'uh Burt Bacharach cover ("Trains and Boats and Planes"), which replaces the Jimmy Webb cover but still doesn't make up for the Queen cover. Meaning, Willie Nelson drops by for a duet ("If Teardrops Were Diamonds," which only sounds like a Bacharach song title), likely because Nelson was in the studio next door singing on someone else's joint. Meaning, a horn section punctuates the title track, suggesting a recent trip to New Orleans or Ken Burns's house. Meaning, he's still living in the past -- "The Late Great Golden State," on which he's propped up by a choir of honky-tonk angels, finds him bidding farewell to the ghost of clubs and wimmin since torn worn -- and still trying to be the next Glen Campbell, which scores points for nobility but gets you dropped from your major. Swear to God, aren't these songs on the boxed set? No? Really?
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