With his new album not scheduled for release until summer and a few empty dates on his dance card, Dwight Yoakam has decided to fill the time with an unassuming acoustic tour billed as “Almost Alone.” It’s a relaxed, vaguely impromptu affair, with Yoakam, accompanied by Keith Gattis on guitars, mandolin and banjo, selecting tunes from a list of material they’ve rehearsed. While the 90-minute set offered a handful of Yoakam originals including “Buenos Noches From a Lonely Room,” “Little Ways” and “Fast As You” (the last rearranged from a Stonesy rocker into a moody shuffle), the bulk of the evening showed off Yoakam’s talents as an interpreter.
Drawing from a range of styles, Yoakam reworked much of the material, giving Warren Zevon’s “Carmelita” a Marty Robbins, south-of-the-border treatment and stripping Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman’s “Little Sister” of its stuttering guitar line and giving it a martial strut. Other highlights included Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s “Dallas,” Waylon Jennings’ “Stop the World (And Let Me Off),” Johnny Horton’s “North to Alaska” and John Prine’s “Paradise.”
Perched on two barstools, Yoakam and Gattis had an easy rapport, with Yoakam occasionally getting so carried away by the music that he would break into a little two-step from the edge of his seat. And while Gattis is a better-than-average player, there were times, such as the Flatt and Scruggs take on Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me,” when the mercurial facility of Pete Anderson, Yoakam’s longstanding collaborator, was sorely missed.
Perf was a fine kickoff to the American Music series at the Fonda. DreamWorks artists Eastmountainsouth opened the show with a short set of gorgeously fragile ballads. Second-billed Mike Stinson sings in an odd high nasal twang. Once you get used to it (and it takes awhile) it become apparent he is a writer of some fine modern honky-tonk ballads.