Dwight Yoakam
3 Pears
Warner Bros.

It’s been seven years since Mr. Yoakam’s last studio release, and he’s enlisted the help of Beck for two tracks (“A Heart Like Mine,” “Missing Heart”) on 3 Pears, an effort that champions the best of this veteran’s hillbilly alt-country.

Yoakam channels Elvis in his yelps and borderline squeals over classic chicken pickin’ twang as “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke” spirals into a rouser with the makings of a radio hit. But the crooner retains a timeless, ingrained quality and authenticity that he shoots like a bullet. Ballads like “Trying” aren’t formulaic love songs for CMT, rather, these stories are overdriven through loud guitars while melodic, acoustic rhythm holds down the groove before giving way to deep, woody Tele tone and steel cries. His voice pierces with sliding guitar near the end of “Missing Heart,” ending abruptly as the two peak.

He includes an inspired arrangement of “Ring of Fire,” a rendition The Man in Black—who once named Yoakam as his favorite country artist—could revere. The fretwork is relatively simple throughout, but Yoakam’s voice collides with strong instrumentals into a unit that is loud in heart and tight as hell. —Tessa Jeffers

Must-hear track: “Missing Heart”