by Clint Burgess & amp; Mike Corrigan

Country's quintessential cowboy is stopping at the Coeur d'Alene Casino and bringing his brand of no-nonsense, country western style with him. In the last decade, few country music artists have been as prolific as Yoakam. If his list of impressive credentials isn't proof enough that he's the real thing, just the name, Dwight Yoakam, should prove that this guy is all country.

The Nashville music machine has been diluted over the past few years, pushing artists who are better suited to VH1 than CMT. This shift toward the mainstream market has left old-schoolers like Yoakam to carve out a new path. Fortunately, the diehards are still flocking to the shows and are showing support where it counts, at the record store.

Yoakam has had a fulfilling career up to this point. Grammys and a slew of collaborations, including a duet with Buck Owens, have made him a mainstay on the country circuit. He's been out of the spotlight for a few years now but is making a comeback with his recently released album Population: Me (Audium Entertainment).

Critics are giving it the thumbs up, and this latest endeavor should prove to be one of Yoakam's more memorable studio performances. The album boasts the writing prowess of a tenured veteran and offers a more vulnerable side of the man who penned such hits as 1999's "You're The One" and "It Only Hurts When I Cry." Yoakam's sensitivity is offset perfectly by his streak of rock 'n' roll sensibility. Never one to shy from the bright lights, his shows are filled with guitar-slinging and super-tight leather pants.

It's been a tough road to hoe, but Yoakam has remained relevant. He's what could be considered contemporary country music's go-to guy. And he has definitely earned it. His slew of hits hasn't gone unnoticed by fans and critics alike. In June, Yoakam celebrated a milestone with the addition of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (There goes the neighborhood.) Always in the mix and never afraid to be the spokesperson for the cowboy faction, this lonesome prairie rover will continue to make music for the boot-clad masses for years to come. His place in the annals of country music stardom has been solidified, and from here on out is just icing on the cake.

This time around, the Coeur d'Alene Casino will play host to Dwight's honky-tonk antics. The past couple of years have seen the casino develop into a viable mid-size venue for national and regional acts. Fellow cowpoke Billy Ray Cyrus once graced the stage and is sure to be back. Show-goers will find the casino's sound is top-notch, and the intimacy of the hall offers an up-close and personal feel. This is a rare opportunity to see a bona fide superstar.

Blues on the Methow -- I'll admit I had to pull out the road atlas to dial this one in -- it's only the longest running blues festival in the state. The Winthrop Rhythm & amp; Blues Festival kicks off its 16th season this weekend (July 18-20) at the mystic 50-acre Blues Ranch with all the necessities for outdoor summer fun: music, camping, food and beer. Where is this mystic 50-acre Blues Ranch, you ask? It's in Okanogan country, on the eastern slopes of the Cascades and on the banks of the Methow River, just one tiny mile from the rustic town of Winthrop, Wash. Each year, the festival attracts some of the most sizzling blues and R & amp;B performers -- not to mention hundreds of fans -- to this tranquil locale to revel in community and the full range of R & amp;B, from traditional to contemporary sounds.

This year, 17 different performances round out the three-day festival, featuring such R & amp;B greats as Junior Watson, Joe Louis Walker & amp; the Boss Talkers -- featuring the son of the great Muddy Waters -- Big Bill Morganfield (on Friday), Seattle favorite Mark DuFresne & amp; Roomful of Blues (on Saturday) and Koko Taylor and Her Blues Machine (on Sunday). Yes, and local legends Too Slim & amp; the Taildraggers will most definitely be on tap as well this year with a Saturday afternoon slot.

New for 2003 is a "Saturday Only" and a "Sunday Only" ticket ($40 and $30, respectively) that you may purchase at the gate. Organizers are also offering a Saturday-only VIP Upgrade ($50 with a general admission ticket), which will include a backstage pass, a coupon for money off on an event T-shirt and beverage tickets to be used in the beer garden.

Live After Five Returns -- Free music, mate. That's an offer you'd have to be daft to refuse. For the fifth straight year and counting, the lovely people at the Downtown Spokane Partnership have been sponsoring a little something they like to call "Live After 5," a live music giveaway formulated to get you out of the office, house or apartment and experience the urban delights found in downtown Spokane on summer evenings. Show up, take in the free entertainment, then see what else downtown has to offer.

What started out as a once-a-month post-workday celebration of the arts has been expanded this year to a weekly deal. Every Thursday from July 24 through August 28, a new show will commence on the corner of Main and Wall near Cucina! Cucina! The series as a whole represents an impressive variety of musical styles. It kicks off next Thursday with the national blues band Little Charlie & amp; the Nightcats and the oldies and classic rock sounds Spokane's own Hot Rod Deluxe. (The Inland Northwest Car Club will also be on hand to show off their supercharged, tricked-out wares.)

The remainder of the schedule features reggae with Spokane's Raggs & amp; Bush Doktor and Latin sounds with Cache (on July 31), indie rock with locals Chinese Sky Candy and Jupiter Effect (Aug. 7), Latin with Milonga and the Paperboys (Aug. 14), dance music with Songbird, DJ Grand Groove and Kidd Sister (Aug. 21) and neo-classic/alt rock with Vertigo Bliss and Stephen Ashbrook (Aug. 28).

Publication date: 07/17/03

Street Music Week @ Downtown Spokane

Through June 14, 12-1 p.m.
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