The Bakersfield sound is central to country music. California is far from Nashville, but the economic hardships brought on by the Dust Bowl in the 1930s sent families from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and elsewhere on a westward migration, bringing an influx of Southern culture, among other things, to cities like Bakersfield. A mix of honky-tonk and proto-rock got blended with hints of Mexican music and country harmonies.
Dwight Yoakam — a versatile actor, songwriter and singer, originally from Ohio before heading to southern California — is now the foremost exponent of the Bakersfield sound, which is defined by the bright twang of Telecasters and high and tight vocal harmonies. But Yoakam has as much in common with Gram Parsons, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and the Elvises (Presley and Costello) as he does with Buck Owens, which is to say there’s a subversive rock energy to much of what he does.
The fact is, Yoakam, with his little mini-yodel yip and pinched tone, is one of the great country singers working today. Just to show off his coolness and taste, Yoakam concluded his 2016 record “Swimming Pools, Movie Stars” with a sweet bluegrass version of “Purple Rain” by Prince, who’d died earlier that year.
Dwight Yoakam plays at the Grand Theater at Foxwoods, 350 Trolley Line Blvd., Mashantucket, on Saturday, Feb. 10, at 8 p.m. $55. foxwoods.com.