. . .
I know I say this every time it comes up, but has been one of my key beliefs that many of the greatest songs of the 21st century come from a little-known source: women who play country music. I’m not talking about your Mirandas and Taylors and Kaceys — though they certainly count — but rather people like Nikki Lane, Lydia Loveless, Margo Price, etc etc etc.
And Sarah Shook’s “Dwight Yoakam” just might be the greatest of them all, leaping right in with here big, sad voice announcing her current situation.
I’m drinkin’ water tonight cause I drank all the whiskey this morning
Drank the whiskey this morning cos my baby, she ain’t comin’ home
“Dwight Yoakam” is a slow, sad breakup song that is as gorgeous as it is heartbreaking. It’s also totally unsparing.
Drinkin’ water tonight cos I drank all the whiskey this morninh
Last night she went up to the bar
Said she met some big country star
So basically, her star-struck girlfriend is leaving her because she met “some big country star,” whom we assume is the titular Mr. Yoakam. But there’s a few twists, as laid out in the gut-wrenching chorus.
She said he likes to make love when he’s smokin’
And he don’t walk around like he’s broken
And he sings just like Dwight Yoakam
The first twist is the plot twist is the guy her baby is leaving her for is not Dwight Yoakam, but just some rando who happens to sing like Dwight Yoakam, and also smokes while fucking, which . . . OK. The knife twist is in the second line: “and he don’t walk around like he’s broken,” which suggests that this was something that her baby wanted to do for awhile, because she was kinda sick of Sarah in the first place. The third twist is the vocal twist Sarah lays on the word “sings” where voice gets far more broken than is almost imaginable. It’s the sound of pure despair. I love it.
My baby she left me she took all her things when she went
Left me standin’ out in the rain and didn’t look back
Drinkin’ water tonight cos I drank all the whiskey this mornin’
She left me nothin’ but heartache and tears
She took every last one of my good years
Once again, her voice just kills in this second verse, where she’s just barely keeping it together, and failing miserably, not even able to get out “good years” to the point where I always thought it was “gear.” Also: I’m pretty sure I’d be going out and getting more whiskey that evening if it happened to me.
“Dwight Yoakam” was the highlight of Sarah Shook & The Disarmers debut album, Sidelong — first self-released in 2015 and then getting a wider release by Bloodshot Records in 2017 — which also contained songs like “Heal Me” and “Fuck Up.” Both it, and the follow-up, 2018’s Years, are well worth your while.
“Dwight Yoakam” Video
“Dwight Yoakam” live at KEXP, 2017
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