Tall-haired Texan delivers his best album in more than a decade
Lyle Lovett is the ultimate AAA artist in a ten-gallon hat: Not quite country, not exactly blues, and definitely not jazz (though he’s sympathetic to the tradition), Lovett has coupled his witty wordplay with an eclectic grab bag of musical adornment throughout his nearly quarter-century career. But it hasn’t often been as compelling as on his 11th long player, Natural Forces (which, on the title track, rhymes with “home is where my horse is”). Essentially the third chapter of the country-centric trilogy he’s been unspooling since 1996’s The Road to Ensenada and 2003’s My Baby Don’t Tolerate, Lovett’s latest is an epic in the wide-open Texas tradition, featuring four original songs (“Natural Forces” and “Empty Blue Shoes” ranking among the finest he’s written) and another seven from various Texas songwriters, including Lovett’s heroes Townes Van Zandt and Robert Earl Keen (who co-wrote “It’s Rock and Roll,” the gritty, uptempo, album closer). Far more than just a curator and tasteful interpreter of others’ material, Lovett once again proves he can stand alongside the finest storytellers.