Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Thirty Year Thursday – LYLE LOVETT “LYLE LOVETT”

[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986, which now shifts to the releases I didn’t discover until after 1986]


Lyle Lovett - Lyle LovettBy the time Texas-born singer/songwriter Lyle Lovett released his eponymous debut album on MCA Records in 1986 he was already in his late-20s, practically ancient for a new recording artist. What he lacked in youth was more than offset by a distinctive vocal delivery, witty & incisive lyrics and songs that combined elements of traditional country, blues, folk, jazz, gospel and more. His instantly recognizable angular facial features and the mop of hair that would soon grow to Eraserhead proportions were originally deterrents for me since, as I stated in Part 1 of my series on the similarly idiosyncratic k.d. lang, I was around 20 years old when both artists emerged and I allowed physical appearances to cloud my musical judgment. Within a few years my ears & eyes were open to these incredible talents and I’ve been an enthusiastic fan ever since. Initially, Lyle Lovett comes across as a typical modern-day traditional country album, similar in many ways to Dwight Yoakam’s debut release from the same year, but repeated listening (which is easy with a running time of 33 minutes) reveals the depths of his talents, much as it did with Mr. Yoakam.

The Top 10 country single “Cowboy Man” is a great way to kick off the album (and his career), a country/skiffle song with jump-blues energy. The comparison to Yoakam is most evident on the midtempo “Farther Down The Line,” a pretty tune with great piano work that just missed the country Top 20. There are also a number of wonderful ballads: “God Will,” a waltz with tasteful Lyle Lovett Photo (circa 1988)instrumentation and a strong hook at “That’s the difference between God and me”; “This Old Porch,” a melancholy country/folk song (co-written with his old friend Robert Earl Keen) with Lovett’s aching vocals: and “Closing Time,” a sweet, melancholy story song that, fittingly, closes the album. Lovett shows off his playful side on “Why I Don’t Know,” an upbeat song with bluesy guitar & piano that cracked the country Top 20. “You Can’t Resist It” might be the most surprising (and anomalous) song here. With fuzzy & stinging electric guitars and even some synthesizer, it’s the most rockin’ track on the album and further evidence of his diversity. “The Waltzing Fool” is a prototypical Lovett song that points to many that would follow, with lovely acoustic guitar, tinkling piano and his voice conveying a lot of emotion. “An Acceptable Level Of Ecstasy (The Wedding Song)” looks ahead to the “Large Band” he would put together a few years later, blending jazz & blues with gospel backing vocals. I’m sure this left country fans & radio programmers baffled but it showcases his unique musical gifts. Can anyone else imagine Tom Waits singing this early in his career? I couldn’t find the studio recording on YouTube but the live performance from 1988 embedded below is a pretty faithful rendition. There are a few Lyle Lovett albums I would recommend to the uninitiated before this one, but once you fall under his spell you should find a lot to enjoy here. It also hasn’t aged a day over the last 30 years.

13 comments on “Thirty Year Thursday – LYLE LOVETT “LYLE LOVETT”

  1. Kevin
    November 10, 2016

    I’m not a country fan but there are a handful of songs by this guy that I really like. “If I Had A Boat,” “Fiona,” “Ought To Be Easier” “North Dakota” “She Makes Me Feel Good” and the above-mentioned ” “Acceptable Level Of Ecstacy” all come to mind.


    • All great songs, Kevin. Lovett is one of those artists that don’t neatly fit under the “country” banner. His first two albums are the most tied to that genre but even those point to the music he made with the Large Band just a few years later. I’m glad you appreciate at least some of his work.

      Liked by 1 person

      • dagersh
        November 11, 2016

        Yeah, I really don’t consider him a country artist either — he spans multiple genres and merely uses country as a jumping off point. He’s one of my favorite artists, and I’m by no means anything like a country fan. He hasn’t put out a bad album yet.

        One thing you don’t really indicate above is the brilliant dark humor of “God Will” — it’s one of the most brutally honest yet sardonic looks at the fallout from unfaithfulness in a relationship that you’ll find.


      • I agree that he hasn’t put out a bad album. I only wish he was a little more prolific, but at least he always gives us quality. Thanks for pointing out the brilliant dark humor of “God Will.” That sense of humor comes through in a lot of his work, and it’s one of the reasons his music has resonated with me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kevin
        November 11, 2016

        I didn’t mean to pigeon-hole him as a “country” artist. Obviously his music covers more ground. In fact, the songs I mentioned aren’t necessarily very “country-ish” but seem to have a base in that genre. I love his voice.


      • My response wasn’t implying that you were pigeonholing him, Kevin. It was aimed more at the people who dismiss him simply because he was initially marketed as a country artist. That voice is one-of-a-kind. I haven’t played a number of his albums in years. I need to remedy that soon.


  2. Murphy's Law
    November 11, 2016

    I first heard him in a record store; they were playing (at that time new) Joshua Judges Ruth on the sound system. I bought that and later found Pontiac and I Love Everybody in the used bin. I think it’s his slow subtle humor that gets me the most.


    • I think Joshua Judges Ruth was the first album that made me take notice, and then I explored his back catalog. I’ve been buying every new release ever since. I completely agree about his “slow subtle humor.” As I mentioned in a reply to an earlier comment, it’s one of the main reasons his music has resonated with me.


  3. J.
    November 11, 2016

    I’m a big fan of the Lovett albums I have, but I definitely need to get more. I don’t know this one too well, but Pontiac and His Large Band are great… as has already been said, he’s more than a country act and those albums in particular find him dipping his toes in different musical waters. He’s one of those truly individual artists. Brilliant stuff.


    • If you enjoy Pontiac you’ll probably find a lot to like on this one as well. I always considered them as a matched pair, aka the early “country” years. I agree about “truly individual artist” and “brilliant.” Thanks for the feedback.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. DanicaPiche
    November 13, 2016

    Rich, I’ve nominated you for the Mystery Blogger Award! You can admire it at https://danicapiche.wordpress.com/2016/11/13/the-mystery-blogger-award/
    I understand you’re unable to participate so please accept this as a gesture of my appreciation. 🙂


    • Thanks for the gesture, Danica, and congratulations on your well-earned award. It’s good to have you back in the blogging world. I left a response to your post so be on the lookout for that.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Satur-debut – …AND THE REST / IN CONCLUSION | KamerTunesBlog

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