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Dwight Yoakam 

Population Me (Electrodisc/Audium)

You get the sense that 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 (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"), probably because Nelson was in the studio next door, singing on someone else's joint. Meaning he's still living in the past 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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