Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Dwight Yoakam, “Ain’t That Lonely Yet”

“Ain’t That Lonely Yet”

Dwight Yoakam

Written by James House and Kostas

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

May 21, 1993

A Class of 1986 graduate reaches his commercial peak.

The Road to No. 1

A Kentucky native, Dwight Yoakam found his way from his home state to Nashville stardom via Los Angeles.  When he first attempted to break through on Music Row, it was at the height of the pop crossover days, and his aggressive honky-tonk was a poor fit for where the industry was.  So he moved to L.A. and became a fixture on the alternative music scene, playing venues that were known for punk and rock.

A self-financed EP caught the attention of Warner Bros., and they soon had him in the studio re-recording its tracks and expanding the album to full-length.  Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. was launched in 1986 with a cover of Johnny Horton’s “Honky Tonk Man,” which went top five and was the first country video played on MTV.   It kicked off a string of hit albums and singles for Yoakam, who released five consecutive platinum albums through the early nineties.

But it was his fifth studio set, This Time, that launched him to multi-platinum sales, and it all started with the lead single.

The No. 1

“Ain’t That Lonely Yet” is a gorgeous, sweeping heartbreak song that Yoakam delivers with stunning emotional heft.   He runs the gamut from anger and bitterness to heartbreak and regret, demonstrating the strength he’s showing by walking away by laying bare his vulnerability and the depth of his wounds.

The chorus as written is fairly repetitive – “I ain’t that lonely yet, no I ain’t that lonely yet.  After what you put me through, I ain’t that lonely yet.”  But his delivery is so varied and complex that each time he sings the title, he might as well be saying different words.  He finds nuances and different meanings in the simplest of phrases.

“Ain’t That Lonely Hit” demonstrates how sophisticated and mature country music can be without losing its roots.

The Road From No. 1

Two more chart-toppers are on the way from This Time, and they’re equally brilliant.  Along the way, Yoakam will pick up a Grammy for the lead single covered today.

“Ain’t That Lonely Yet” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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  1. Despite what Barbara Mandrell maintained, country hadn’t been cool for a long while until Dwight Yoakam came along. Yoakam added an LA, chic hipness to country music. From the Salvador Dali inspired album art of the “This Time” album by Kip Lott to the cowboy cool aesthetics of the photography, Yoakam was without peer in country in terms of edginess and image.

    The only thing cooler than Yoakam was his musical output, a blend of funky innovation and tradition.

    I remember seeing Yoakam tour in Minneapolis behind this album in the summer of 1993. He his only interaction with the audience was basically “Hello, Minneapolis” and “Goodnight, Minneapolis.” In between, he absolutely burned Northrop Auditorium to the ground.

    That fire began with this song.

    Another classic from this era.

  2. I absolutely love this song, and it’s one of my very favorites from Dwight Yoakam! It’s one of the many great songs written by James House and Kostas, two more of my favorite songwriters from the 90’s, and I just love the Roy Orbison feel all over this record. It’s sort of the style that the Mavericks and even co-writer House would explore in their own recording careers in the following couple of years. This is also one of my favorite vocal performances from Yoakam, and I love the guitar work featured throughout (especially in the intro) and the strings in the background. Just a lovely tune all around!

    Unfortunately, as much as I love this song, this is the first of many 1993 and 1994 songs that I completely missed out on hearing during their original chart runs. At this point in 1993, my attention had pretty much shifted towards the oldies station my mom was listening to at the time (which still actually played Orbison’s music), and the only times I heard any country was either when my dad or step dad happened to have a country station on in the car or when I was listening to one of my older country tapes/cd’s. Also by this time, my step dad found this new country station that mostly only played upbeat/uptempo country songs, and this particular song from Dwight was likely not played there much, if not at all. I got back into listening to country full time around the Spring of 1995, but for some reason, this song never seemed to have much of a recurrent life with any of our stations, and up until I finally picked up a copy of This Time in the early 00’s, I had only heard bits and pieces of it on TV and once in one of our favorite steakhouses at the time. That was enough to make me want to hear the song more though, and when I finally did get my hands on the This Time album, you better believe I played the heck out of this song over and over, lol. Ever since, it’s quickly become one of my all time favorites. This Time is still one of my favorite Dwight albums to this day, as well!

    Unlike Leeann, I actually liked most of Dwight’s stuff as a kid (“I Sang Dixie” was probably my most favorite then, as it’s the Dwight song that made most of my tapes and the one I’d listen to over and over the most), but I didn’t begin to truly appreciate him as an artist until around the late 90’s/early 00’s when I started getting more nostalgic towards country from the 80’s up to the mid 90’s (My, how little things change, lol). The first Dwight cd I picked up was Just Lookin’ For A Hit, and then later I picked up If There Was a Way, and of course, This Time. This thing I find interesting about the first three This Time singles, and I believe this was also noted in the review for that album on My Kind of Country, was how they marked a shift away from the much twangier style he had in the 80’s and earlier 90’s. With those being his first number ones of the 90’s, I guess it was just another sign of how the format was beginning to move away from the traditional sounds that had dominated in 1990-1992, and was welcoming more pop and rock influences. In Dwight’s case, though, that wasn’t always a bad thing, since I really love both this and “A Thousand Miles…” especially, and think those are two of his very best. They still sound very fresh today, as well, and don’t really sound or feel like early 90’s records to my ears.

    Another one of his early 90’s singles I’ve always loved is “It Only Hurts When I Cry” and I wish that had gone to number one. I also really like “The Heart That You Own” and “Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose.”

  3. @Leeann – I too was not much of a fan as a teenager (maybe partly due to my mom being a fan and thinking it wouldn’t be cool to like the same music as my parents :) ), but I eventually came to my senses and Dwight Yoakam is now my favourite artist of all time.

    @Peter – I’ve seen him live a few times and the shows are fantastic! The last time I saw him he opened with a fast-paced version of Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and that set the tone for the whole night. Very little interaction with the audience, but that’s just his style and it works.

    This song is excellent – one of my favourites of his!

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