Dwight Yoakam pleased with newfound popularity 

click to enlarge Dwight Yoakam says his latest album “Second Hand Heart” is in “cowpunk vernacular.” - COURTESY EMILY JOYCE
  • COURTESY EMILY JOYCE
  • Dwight Yoakam says his latest album “Second Hand Heart” is in “cowpunk vernacular.”
Grammy-winner Dwight Yoakam at first was puzzled by the glowing reaction to his new album “Second Hand Heart,” which wowed critics and debuted on Billboard’s country chart at No. 2 – his highest position in 27 years.

Yet he’s stopped questioning his good fortune, even though this 2015 recording – with the opening jangler “In Another World,” propulsive rocker “Liar,” loping “Off Your Mind” and souped-up take on the traditional “Man of Constant Sorrow” – is the same top-shelf, punk-meets-honky-tonk hybrid he created on his 1986 debut “Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.”

“You know what I’m doing on this record is basically ... well, I’m doing me,” says Yoakam, 58, who hits The City this week to back it. “But hey, I’m happy that they like it, I’m just happy that anybody noticed.”

He treasures a quote from fellow old-schooler Ricky Skaggs, who said that if you just stand still for long enough, the times – and popularity – catch up to you again: “Maybe people ignored some of what I was doing throughout my career, but recognition does come back around; Ricky was right,” says Yoakam.

Then again, the Kentuckian’s stock has been rising. When Nashville newcomer Brandy Clark was invited to select a partner for her performance of “Hold My Hand” at the Grammys this year, she immediately chose Yoakam, her longtime songwriting idol.

Similarly, when Music Row iconoclast Eric Church was lining up his cutting-edge Outsiders arena tour last year, he chose metal band Halestorm to open, and Yoakam as the roadhouse-rowdy middle act.

“It was this great eclectic mix – Eric was really pushing the envelope,” Yoakam says of the run that exposed him to a legion of new country fans.

As a thespian, the “Sling Blade” star is equally busy, appearing in eight episodes of Stephen King’s TV series “Under the Dome” as town barber Lyle Chumley, and in a cameo in the upcoming Michael Polish film “90 Minutes in Heaven,” based on a true story of a car-crash victim who revives after being pronounced clinically dead for an hour and a half.

“But actors are always at the mercy of opportunity, so there are rumors of interesting television things I might be doing soon, but nothing specific or absolute right now,” he says.

Yoakam allows that there’s a sense of urgency to “Heart,” which was tracked at Capitol’s reverb-rich Studio B in Hollywood. When he moved to Los Angeles and broke in its mid-’80s club scene, alongside X, Lone Justice and The Blasters, he says, “I was really doing a super-sonic version of bluegrass and hillbilly music. But with this album, it feels like I’m finally expressing myself in, if you will, an actual cowpunk vernacular.”

IF YOU GO

Dwight Yoakam

Where: Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness Ave., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. May 7

Tickets: $48 to $62.50

Contact: (888) 929-7849, www.axs.com

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Tom Lanham

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