There are few joys in country music quite like listening to Dwight Yoakam sing. The legend's voice is strong enough to build a town around, yet he shows vulnerability in the smallest -- but most important -- ways. It's the little upticks at the end of his phrases, or the uncomfortable grit in dire ballads that invite fans to happily drown in his sorrow. '3 Pears' is an album long overdue. Yoakam proves that he would really have to try to make a bad album. 

However, when he tries too hard and searches too deep for great music, there is an air of pretentiousness. The title track and 'Waterfall' are two examples of songs that are, quite simply put, too cool for the room.

"If I had a jellyfish / I bet you we would never miss / A single peanut butter kiss or squeeze / If I had a waterfall / I might not make much sense at all / But that won't matter much to you and me," he sings on the latter. The creativity is appreciated, but most will be left scratching their heads after this song.

Fortunately, those are the exceptions rather than the rule. '3 Pears' opens up with a powerful bass line that quickly and dramatically reintroduces us to Yoakam, who sings "Take hold of my hand / I'll do what I can / To make everything right / At least for tonight." The Kid Rock co-written song is a sublime moment that's recreated on similarly powerful songs like 'Dim Lights, Thick Smoke, Loud Music.'

Overall, '3 Pears' is more mellow than one would expect. The best of the ballads are 'It's Never Alright' and 'Missing Heart.' In both, Yoakam adds an intriguing lineup of instruments to help him tell the story. On 'It's Never Alright' it's piano, horns and string that add to the heartbreak of getting over someone. 'Missing Heart' employs a deep, rumbling kick drum late in the song to make a seemingly simply tune much more dramatic.

Between the drama, Yoakam finds middle ground and notes on 'Long Way to Go,' a track perfectly placed on '3 Pears.' Covers of Johnny Cash's 'Ring of Fire' and the Bee Gees' 'To Love Somebody' close the album. Neither is remarkable.

Yoakam is a man of many interests, who pursues creativity in a wide variety of ways. His quirks are what make him such a unique artist, and the peculiar moments on '3 Pears' further set him apart from any other singer in country music -- past or present. One hopes it's not another seven years between projects.