"Blame the Vain"

New West

Producer-guitarist Pete Anderson is conspicuously absent on "Blame the Vain," but longtime fans needn't worry. Dwight Yoakam hasn't changed his tune.

Lean, spirited and only briefly marred by a couple of superfluous dramatic gambits, the self-produced "Blame the Vain" is a constant reminder of Yoakam's career-long obsession with Bakersfield honky-tonk heroes Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, and Memphis cats Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley, and, above all else, with reverberating tales of haunted souls and shattered hearts.

It's also proof that Yoakam continues to turn out first-class country songs with remarkable consistency. He composed each of the album's dozen selections, and among them are a few ballads that would stand out even on his best recordings, including the split-up-and-torn-up tearjerkers "Does It Show" and "Just Passin' Time." Another highlight is "Three Good Reasons," which mines the same funny-sad vein as "I Forgot to Remember to Forget" and other cleverly worded, vintage laments.

Granted, Yoakam gets carried away by a NASCAR metaphor on "Intentional Heartache," and he slips again when he prefaces "She'll Remember" with a silly narrative flourish. But the miscues are fleeting, and the presence of guitarist Keith Gattis, who cannily echoes the signature sounds of Don Rich, James Burton, Hank Garland, Chuck Berry and other guitar greats, offers plenty of compensation for Anderson's departure.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Thursday at the 9:30 club.

Dwight Yoakam, a model of consistency.