Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Lyle Lovett

  • Lyle Lovett [Curb/MCA, 1986] B+
  • Pontiac [Curb, 1987] B-
  • Lyle Lovett and His Large Band [Curb, 1989] B
  • Joshua Judges Ruth [Curb/MCA, 1992] Choice Cuts
  • I Love Everybody [Curb/MCA, 1994] B+
  • The Road to Ensenada [Curb/MCA, 1996] ***
  • Step Inside This House [Curb/MCA, 1998] Neither
  • Live in Texas [Curb, 1999] **
  • Natural Forces [Lost Highway, 2009] **

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Lyle Lovett [Curb/MCA, 1986]
Writes like Guy Clark, only plainer, sings like Jesse Winchester only countrier, and if you've got a clear idea who both guys are you'll probably like him fine. B+

Pontiac [Curb, 1987]
He's another Nashville neotraditionalist who's trying his damnedest to surpass a not-bad debut, a rounder who's better off playing the husband (as in the unembittered "Give Back My Heart" and "She's No Lady"), with something of Merle's jazz feel and a weakness for songpoetry ("If I Had a Boat," help). And he's something of a hit as he joins such succes d'estime as pure Ricky Skaggs, clean Dwight Yoakam, clear-eyed Ricky Van Shelton, straight George Strait, reborn Reba McEntire, King Shit Randy Travis, and the great Rosanne Cash in a critical-commercial conflux that recalls the chart-topping days of Beatles, Stones, and, er, Jefferson Airplane. Why isn't this more of an up? Because all it means is that the folkies have taken over the establishment again, and a piss-poor one at that--these artists often spend the better part of a year going gold. Granted, the new trend does lend credence to the old folkie claim of proximity to the hearts of the people. But it also lends credence to the old antifolkie charge of middle-class romanticism in disguise. B-

Lyle Lovett and His Large Band [Curb, 1989]
After kicking off with a sharp r&b instrumental, the lapsed grad student dispenses with pretension and boils country down to the basics. Singing: well-schooled. Songcraft: canny, humorous. Concept: women, you can't live with 'em and you can't live without 'em--and it's their fault. Lest anyone mistake his intentions, he also covers "Stand by Your Man." Very humorous. B

Joshua Judges Ruth [Curb/MCA, 1992]
"Church"; "She Makes Me Feel Good"; "She's Leaving Me Because She Really Wants To" Choice Cuts

I Love Everybody [Curb/MCA, 1994]
What his claque cheered as wit, wisdom, and soul I suspected of meanness, pretension, and bald (ha ha) expropriation, but now that he's gone Hollywood, I enjoy his smarts and sound. Right, there is the character who killed his grandma for her gold tooth la-dee-dah. But whether he's flattering penguins, flirting fruitlessly with waitresses and record ladies, getting Dr. King's picture out of South Carolina, or nailing the limits of somebody else's soulful sincerity, he keeps it sprightly. This is pop, where clever gets you further than wise. B+

The Road to Ensenada [Curb/MCA, 1996]
funny guy, but who can trust him? ("Long Tall Texan," "Don't Touch My Hat") ***

Step Inside This House [Curb/MCA, 1998] Neither

Live in Texas [Curb, 1999]
Entertaining to the converted ("Here I Am," "I've Been to Memphis"). **

Natural Forces [Lost Highway, 2009]
Note with relief that he's papering over his spiritual limitations with covers and cowrites ("Pantry," "Loretta"). **