Quirky tunes, acting from Dwight Yoakam 

click to enlarge Adventurous album: Dwight Yoakam’s latest is “3 Pears.” - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Adventurous album: Dwight Yoakam’s latest is “3 Pears.”

Alt-country kingpin and part-time thespian Dwight Yoakam lately has been offered prestigious acting gigs, like playing Gen. George Meade in the Civil War miniseries “To Appomattox” and Doc Miles in the Jason Statham franchise “Crank.”

He even was briefly attached to Gore Verbinski’s still-filming reboot of “The Lone Ranger,” but after false starts, Yoakam, who plays Hardly Strictly Bluegrass on Sunday, opted to finish his new album “3 Pears” instead.

See a list of other Hardly Strictly Bluegrass headliners here.

One of his acting roles, though, stands out. He plays Bruce, a mysterious stranger from the past in “Wilfred,” the dark comedy on FX starring Jason Gann as the talking-dog title character.

Yoakim says it’s not easy delivering straight lines to the squirrelly Australian Gann, attired in a flop-eared dog suit. A recent script involved Bruce putting Elijah Wood’s hapless Ryan protagonist through an elaborate truth or dare that bordered on torture.

But “Wilfred” producers, huge Yoakam fans, imagined him as a perfectly droll Bruce. “So I watched the pilot episode and said, ‘Sure! Sign me up! I’ll come over there and see where Bruce lives, whatever he is. Because Wilfred never cops to whether Bruce really exists or not,” says the “Sling Blade” actor.

Nowadays, Yoakam, 55, delights in such left-field surprises.  After years in the indie-imprint wilderness, he re-inked with his old imprint Warner Bros. and self-produced “3 Pears,” his most adventurous effort since 1993’s definitive “This Time.”

The first single, “Take Hold of my Hand,” was an unfinished 20-year-old fragment until he and Kid Rock retooled it in three hours.

Pistol Annies frontwoman Ashley Monroe co-penned the forlorn “It’s Never Alright,” and, in the record’s oddest teamup,  Beck Hansen co-produced two echoey numbers, “Missing Heart” and “A Heart Like Mine.”

“Beck and I are both way into the molecular energy that’s still in those old, historic rooms, like East West Studios, where I cut a lot of this record,” says Yoakam. “He’s also connected in a very visceral sense to music; that’s what I noticed the first time we met in my office.”

The title cut of “3 Pears” and the song “Waterfall” are two “Puff, The Magic Dragon”-hazy oddities inspired by John Lennon and Tommy Smothers, respectively.  

The disc is so quirky, “all it needed was Martin Sheen to narrate it, like ‘Apocalypse Now,’” says Yoakam, who received an ACM Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award for his 28-year,

California-based career. He adds, “But, as Minnie Pearl said, ‘I’m just so happy to be here.’ I’ve had a really good run.”

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Tom Lanham

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