Dwight Yoakam, the elite American country music singer songwriter, made his debut in 1984. Since then, he has released 17 studio albums beginning with Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., which the RIAA certified double-platinum. Some critics argue that Yoakam’s best days were in the 80s and 90s, but his work transcends all time. Let’s rank all the Dwight Yoakam Albums from good to best.
17. Come On Christmas
Yoakam released Come On Christmas in 1997 as his eight-studio album. It was also his first Christmas album. Upon release, it rose to number 32 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums.
16. Under the Covers
Besides being his seventh studio album, Under the Covers was also Yoakam’s first covers album. It peaked at number 92 on the Billboard 200 and 8 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. Essentially, the album was a mix of covers by Yoakam of different songs, including tracks by the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Kinks, and The Clash. It did not impress critics much with Don McCleese deeming it “strange, even by the standards set by Gone” but it did do fairly well among Yoakam’s fans.
Yoakam released Gone in 1995 under Reprise Records – it was his sixth studio album. Rising to number 5 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, Gone produced three tracks that charted on Billboard Hot Country Songs: Sorry You Asked? at number 59, Gone (That’ll Be Me) at number 20, 51, and Nothing at number 20. Heart of Stone did not chart in the US. Sorry You Asked and Baby Why Not were different from Yoakam’s previous works and did not feature the usual dark lyrical themes. Generally, Gone was not as successful as This Time – its predecessor – and was Yoakam’s first album without a Top Ten country hit. It did generate a lot of media attention for the artist, nonetheless.
14. If There Was a Way
If There Was a Way included five tracks that held prominent positions on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart between 1991 and 1992. The Heart That You Own, Nothing’s Changed Here, Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose, It Only Hurts When I Cry, and You’re the One peaked at numbers 18, 15, 11, 7, and 5, respectively. Overall, this album holds the most diverse set of works Yoakam has released up to then, containing his signature honky-tonk sound and soul and rock influences. It peaked at number 7 on the Country Albums chart.
13. Hillbilly Deluxe
Yoakam released Hillbilly Deluxe in 1987, and like his debut album, it rose to the top position on the Billboard Country Albums chart. Between 1987 and 1988, four singles from the album rose to top 10 on the Hot Country Singles. This was an exciting time for Yoakam because his debut album had made him a hot star in the country music industry. AllMusic writer Thom Jurek commented on Yoakam’s voice in Hillbilly Deluxe describing it as “…a dead cross of Merle Haggard’s early voice and Lefty Frizzell’s” and “…one of the purest, most soulful voices in this era.”
12. Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room
Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room was Yoakam’s third studio album. It contains his first and only two songs to top the Hot Country Singles chart. These are I Sang Dixie, an original composition, and Streets of Bakersfield, a re-done duet with Buck Owens. According to Don McLeese, Yoakam’s biographer, the theme in Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room “is almost relentlessly bleak, occasionally lethal, a descent into the depths of honky-tonk hell.” All Music called the album Yoakam’s “best yet,” and it was featured in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (the book).
11. Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars…
Yoakam considered Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars… his first bluegrass album. Released in 2016, the album consists of several Yoakam songs redone in bluegrass fashion and a cover of Purple Rain. It peaked at number 62 on the Billboard 200 and was lauded by several critics. A Santa Fe New Mexican reviewer said of it, “Without a trace of irony, he finds the soul of the song and makes it into the perfect hillbilly tribute to the ascended master from Minneapolis.”
10. A Long Way Home
A Long Way Home rose to number 11 on the Billboard Country Album and produced hits like These Arms and Things Change, which peaked at number 57 and 17, respectively. Yoakam wrote all the album’s songs, most of them while on the set of Newton Boys. Although some critics claim that his music suffered during his acting stint, the country star claimed that he “wrote some of the best material I’ve ever written while shooting in Austin, Texas.” In terms of the music, the album is less ambitious than his previous material in Gone and was considered more suited to radio.
9. Population Me
Population Me was Yoakam’s thirteenth studio album, which he released in mid-2003 through Audium Records. It consisted of two singles: The Late Golden State and The Back of Your Hand. While it is mostly a country record, Album Me also includes a wide range of musical sounds – more than his previous works. It also featured a lot of banjo. On Trains and Boats and Planes – a reworked version of Burt Bacharach’s original work – Earl Scruggs plays the banjo.
8. Blame the Vain
Yoakam released Blame the Vain in June 2005. It marked the first album in his career in which he did not collaborate with guitarist producer Pete Anderson. In fact, Yoakam wrote and produced all the songs on the album himself. He also directed the videos for the title track and Intentional Heartache. In an interview, Yoakam said that he drew inspiration for the sound he used in Blame the Vain from Bridge Over Troubled Water – the masterpiece by Simon and Garfunkel. Blame the Vain was well received by fans and critics alike. Slant called it “a new peak in a career full of them and is Yoakam’s finest work in a decade.” As a producer, Yoakam really came into his own on this album, producing a mature and excitingly new but familiar musical sound.
7. Second Hand Heart
Second Hand Heart is one of Yoakam’s most recent works, having been released on April 14, 2015. It debuted on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart at number 2 and became his highest-charting album since the 1988 Buenos Noches from a Lonely Room. During the first week of its release, Second Hand Heart sold 21,000 copies in the US and had sold 87,000 by August 2016.
6. Dwight Sings Buck
Yoakam released Dwight Sings Buck as a tribute to his icon, the late Buck Owens, on what would have been his 51st birthday – October 23, 2007. Yoakam had been a huge fan of Owens, and it seemed only a natural step to pay tribute to him after his 2006 death, although Yoakam insists that the music process was very organic. AllMusic hailed the album, commenting, “…this is a tribute in the purest sense of the word, and an album no fan of either artist should miss.”
5. 3 Pears
3 Pears was released on September 18, 2012, and is considered one of Yoakam’s most critically acclaimed releases. Released through Warner Bros. Records., the album includes collaborations with Ashley Monroe of Pistol Annies, Kid Rock, and Beck. Overall, the music maintained much of Yoakam’s original sound but also incorporated some diverse influences and musical styles. Yoakam is said to have experimented with multiple sounds during this self-produced album.
4. South of Heaven, West of Hell
South of Heaven, West of Hell is the twelfth studio album by country music artist Dwight Yoakam. It served as the first soundtrack to South of Heaven, West of Hell – the motion picture in which Yoakam directed, co-wrote, and starred. In the movie, he plays a lawman in the wild west area of the Arizona Territory during the early 1900s. Generally, the album can be divided into two halves. One half contains purely country tracks, while the other half consists of short dialog snippets from the film. Critics consider the songs some of the artists’ most inspired efforts.’ It was also his only album released by Warner Bros. after he left Reprise. Putting the dialog snippets aside, the music in the soundtrack is inspired and, in some cases, more memorable than the film itself. The main tracks are four gospel songs, one of which is a contemporary version of the popular hymn Who at the Door Is Standing. This was performed as a duet with Bekka Bramlett). The other three tracks are The Last Surrender, an original by Yoakam, The Darkest Hour, a traditional piece, and It Is Well with my Soul sang only with piano.
3. Tomorrow’s Sounds Today
Number three on our list of Yoakam Studio Albums is Tomorrow’s Sounds Today. This was Yoakam’s eleventh studio album, which he released on October 31, 2000. Overall, the album and some of its tracks did very well on the charts. I Want You to Want Me, Yoakam’s cover of the 1979 hit by Cheap Trick, peaked at number 49 on the Hot Country Songs chart and What Do You Know About Love rose to number 26 on the same chart. The album itself rose to number 7 on the Billboard Country Albums chart. The repertoire also includes two Buck Owen duets. Buck Owen was a major influence on Yoakam’s sound and musical style, so the two tracks were very special to the artist. Additionally, Tomorrow’s Sounds Today marked a turning point in Yoakam’s career as it was his last work with Reprise label before he moved to Warner Bros. in 2001. If A Long Way Home was reminiscent of a more country sound, Tomorrow’s Sounds Today marked a full return to the musical style. In fact, critics consider it his straightest country work since he released Buenos Noches from Lonely Room. The album is also brighter and more joyful than his works in Gone and This Time.
2. Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.
Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. is Yoakam’s debut album and his first Billboard Country Albums number 1. It is also the first time he collaborated with record producer-guitarist Pete Anderson on an album. Overall, Yoakam composed six of the ten songs on the album. This includes the title song, which was ranked number 94 on Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest country songs list. Three of the singles from the album were charted on the Hot Country Singles chart in 1986. It Won’t Hurt, Honky Tonk Man and the title track peaked at number 31, 4, and 3, respectively. Thanks to his work on this album, Yoakam received two Grammy award nominations and won Top New Male Vocalist at the Academy of Country Music Awards in 1986.
1. This Time
This Time was released in March 1993 by Reprise Records and was Yoakam’s fifth studio album. Three of the tracks on the album – Fast as You, A Thousand Miles from Nowhere, and Ain’t That Lonely Yet – peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles charts, barely missing the top spot. Fast as You was Yoakam’s last Top 10 single to date. This Time peaked at number 4 on the Top Country Albums chart and remained Yoakam’s biggest selling album ever after it was certified triple platinum. Thom Jurek, an AllMusic reviewer, said of it, “…This Time is no sell out; it’s a new way to present the timelessness of hard, torn, wasted-love country love songs with less reckless sentimentality and more honest emotion….” Rolling Stone magazine gave it four stars, which must have been extra exciting for Yoakam since he wrote or co-wrote all but one of the tracks. It is widely considered his best work.
Besides releasing these Dwight Yoakam Albums, this talented artist has also graced the music world with several compilation albums, most of them very successful. This Time remains his best work of all time, but no one can argue that all his other albums are not a treasure.