How do you squeeze a little more profit out of an old album? You release an “Expanded Edition” adding a couple of songs that weren’t good enough to make the original album or failing that, stick a couple of demos on there. You may not attract any new punters but the die hard fans will buy the album again for those little extra titbits.
Whoever was behind the reissue of Dwight Yoakam’s debut album, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. is clearly new to the whole “Expanded Edition” thing. Instead of fleecing a little extra cash from the punters this set actually offers real value for money. The original album consisted of just ten songs, this release increases that to more than three times that number.
So what do you get for your hard earned cash? Well the first disc kicks of with ten demos from 1981. Half of the songs made it to the released album and another four would appear on subsequent releases but the versions here are more raw and rough around the edges. This is Dwight finding his sound with the aid of some master session musicians and he’s clearly having a ball. Many of the songs sound better here than in their finished versions, although the raucous atmosphere of the sessions doesn’t suit “I Sang Dixie”.
The only demo never to have made it to an album (at least so far) is “Please Daddy” a typical country tearjerker about a man whose wife’s left him and his daughters attempt to console him. It feels a little out of place among the usual Dwight fare – drinking, breaking hearts, and death.
Tracks 11 to 20 form the original album, sounding better than ever. The album hasn’t really dated much, with Dwight’s sound a timeless blend of Bakersfield honky-tonk and rock ‘n’ roll. The demo version of “Bury Me” is improved upon with the inclusion of Pete Anderson’s guitar and Maria McKee dueting with Yoakam. Listening to that track reminded me how much I miss Lone Justice.
The second disc of this set features a real treat, a gig at The Roxy from 1986. Finally getting his big break, Dwight is in playful mood, joking with the audience and just having a good time. There is such unbridled joy in the playing that this listener had a smile on his face from start to finish. From the opening twang of Pete Anderson’s guitar on “Can’t You Hear Me Calling” to the closing notes of “Since I Started Drinking Again” this is a blistering live set.
On top of Yoakam originals are such treats as a storming version of Hank Williams “My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It” and “Mystery Train” dedicated to John Fogerty and Emmylou Harris (both in the audience). Playing in from of such legendary artists you might expect a little nervousness but there’s none of that, what we get is a man who knows his time has come and he’s damn sure going to grab it with both hands.
Put simply this is a magnificent release and even casual Dwight Yoakam fans should pick it up, it’ll take you back to a time when country music got a much needed kick in the pants. “It’s just old hillbilly stuff” Dwight says modestly at one point. It’s that alright and more besides.