Monday, October 27, 2014

CD Odyssey Disc 673: Lyle Lovett

When I travel I save space in my luggage by bringing old clothes and throwing them away as I go from place to place. It is always great to return home with a bag lighter than the one you left with.

This time I left behind a ton of old underwear and socks, and so on Saturday I went out and replaced it all. The older I get the more I appreciate the joy of new underwear.

I also bought a guitar stand so that my guitar can be ready for me to pick up when the mood hits me. Hopefully it will encourage me to play more often. Man does not live by new underwear alone.

Disc 673 is…. My Baby Don’t Tolerate
Artist: Lyle Lovett

Year of Release: 2003

What’s up with the Cover? Lyle’s waist. I like the belt buckle, but otherwise don’t dig this cover. I prefer the picture on the other side of the booklet…
How I Came To Know It:  I’ve liked Lyle Lovett for a long time. I bought this album when it came out, which is what I generally do with Lyle Lovett.

How It Stacks Up:  Lyle has had quite the career, and has eleven studio albums. I’ve got them all, and while I enjoyed “My Baby Don’t Tolerate” it is hard to rank above many of the others. I’m going to put it 8th, marking the third time I’ve bumped down previous Lyle albums to make room. They’re all good, and hard to stack up.

Rating:  3 stars

“My Baby Don’t Tolerate” has a strong country feel, and in many ways it feels like Lyle returning to the blues-tinged country of his early albums, albeit with a relaxed don’t-hurry attitude that comes with age.

“My Baby…” took its time being birthed. It is the first album of original material since 1996’s “Road to Ensenada”. Lyle released the double-album “Step Inside This House” in 1998, but that was a tribute album to fellow Texas songwriters.

OK, so it is Lyle doing Lyle again, but is it any good? Yes, but don’t expect to be blown away with obvious singles. “My Baby…” is a relaxed record that delivers songs that sound more like standard old-school country than most of his releases.

The album has songs about driving a truck (“The Truck Song”) riding a bull (“Nothing But a Good Ride”) and drivin’ around with your girl (“Wallisville Road”). It is clear that the effect of the Texas songwriters off “Step Inside This House” encouraged Lyle back to his roots.

Most pronounced is “On Saturday Night” the story about a pill-popping family of low-lifes that would fit right in with some of the characters on his early classic record, “Pontiac.” Steel guitar and an up-beat swing belie the sad tale of drug use and dropping out.

Of course it wouldn’t be Lyle if it wasn’t jazzed up a little with some ragtime piano and blues, and even the most country of songs have instrumentation that make them decidedly urban in their souls. This ability to blend styles is what makes Lyle such a unique artist, and a big reason I keep coming back to him.

My Baby Don’t Tolerate” is a bluesy tune about the woman you don’t want to cross, and “You Were Always There” is a moody blues number that would be at home in a piano lounge if the guy in the piano lounge was actually interesting.

There are times that songs drag out, however. Where early in his career Lyle would wrap up a musical concept in four minutes or less, on “My Baby…” he occasionally brushes up against six and it feels just a shade too long.

Lyle likes a song about a high-spirited woman, and “My Baby…” has two of them, “Cute as a Bug” and “San Antonio Girl.” The former is about trying to track down a girl that blows by you on the highway; the latter being the dangerous fun of actually being along for the ride.

Lyle’s phrasing is masterful and his vocal delivery is always a complex relationship to the song’s rhythm. His vocals are high and hurt-filled, but there’s often a wry smile in there somewhere if you listen for it.

The album ends with a couple of upbeat gospel numbers, “I’m Going To Wait” and “I’m Going to the Place.” The album would have been adequately served by just one of these tracks, but both are good so I can forgive Lyle his fervor for the art form. Also the fact that they both sound like they’ve been kicking around churches for decades, when he just wrote them is impressive. It takes a lot of work to sound timeless.

If you are just getting into Lyle Lovett, I wouldn’t recommend “My Baby Don’t Tolerate.” It is a bit too subtle in places and it doesn’t have obvious hits that you’re your ear a place to hang your hat. However, if you like what you hear on some of his other work, this is definitely an album worth adding if you want even more of his signature sound.

Best tracks:   Cute as a Bug, My Baby Don’t Tolerate, In My Own Mind, Working Too Hard, San Antonio Girl, On Saturday Night

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