Review – Dwight Yoakam’s “Who’ll Stop The Rain”

Dwight Yoakam returned to making music in 2012 when he released his album 3 Pears. He had taken time off to focus on his acting career. His return to music was certainly a good one, as the album received plenty of critical acclaim and reached #1 on the Americana Radio chart. Yoakam also recently announced he has resigned with Warner Brothers Nashville. To top it off he’s now released his first single from his new upcoming album (no name or date announced), “Who’ll Stop The Rain.” It’s a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1970 hit song.

It’s a great choice of song to cover because both Yoakam and CCR are known for having the “Bakersfield sound.” For those who aren’t familiar with the Bakersfield sound, it’s a roots rock country sound that was first popularized in California. Many also call it California country. Yoakam himself offered the best explanation of what this sound is in an interview:

‘Bakersfield’ really is not exclusively limited to the town itself but encompasses the larger California country sound of the Forties, Fifties and on into the Sixties, and even the Seventies, with the music of Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, the Burrito Brothers and the Eagles — they are all an extension of the ‘Bakersfield Sound’ and a byproduct of it. I’ve got a poster of Buck Owens performing at the Fillmore West in 1968 in Haight Asbury! What went on there led to there being a musical incarnation called country rock. I don’t know if there would have been a John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival had there not been the California country music that’s come to be known as the ‘Bakersfield Sound’.

So it’s clear he’s paying homage to the sub-genre of Bakersfield country and one of his favorite bands with his cover of “Who’ll Stop The Rain.” You will inevitably compare both versions of the song. But Yoakam gives the song a different feel, as he slows the tempo down compared to the original version. This gives the song a more country feel compared to the original, which was more of a folk rock song. Instrumentation wise, Yoakam uses a steel guitar rather than an acoustic guitar like the original. The drums are also not as present in Yoakam’s version, giving the song a more mellow vibe. CCR’s version was a little over two and a half minutes long, while Yoakam adds a few more lyrics and more chorus lines in his version bringing it to four minutes and forty-one seconds in length. Yoakam really gives it a distinction compared to the original version, making it almost a completely different song.

The original intentions behind the lyrics in this song were about government, big business and Woodstock, as the song was written after John Fogerty attended the famous concert in August 1969. Baby boomers listening to this song will still connect with these themes, while younger listeners who have never heard the song will interpret it entirely different. Some will probably interpret it as a heartbreak song, while others may consider it a commentary on the current economy. Regardless, I think listeners will appreciate Yoakam’s modern interpretation of the classic song. Yoakam’s 3 Pears album was met with great reception. If this song is an indication of the direction of his next album, I think this album will be even bigger. Most artists do a solid job with their covers of classic hits (or butcher them entirely), but Yoakam’s cover of “Who’ll Stop The Rain” is an example of the way you should cover classic songs. Making it your own and modernizing it, while also respecting the original sound.

Grade: 8.5/10

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