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).
Retreating to generally quieter territory after the somewhat splashy It's Not Big It's Large, Lyle Lovett also backs away from original tunes on Natural Forces, choosing to devote the bulk of the 11-track album to other writers. Covers are common for Lovett, but not since 1998's Step Inside This House has he spent so much time singing other's songs, and he revisits some of the same composers as before, picking tunes from Townes Van Zandt and Vince Bell, while co-writing "It's Rock and Roll" with Robert Earl Keen. As before, Lyle gravitates toward gentle, moody songs, with Tommy Elskes' slyly sarcastic blues, "Bohemia," being the liveliest of the bunch, opting to give Natural Forces some humor and tempo through his originals, particularly the bawdy, rollicking "Pantry" and the dirty jump blues "Farmer Brown/Chicken Reel.
Lyle Lovett’s latest is something of a ? hybrid: Natural Forces is half self-penned material, leaning toward upbeat levity (if not outright comedy), and half an album of dead-serious ballads from his favorite Texas songwriters. The cover tunes — written by the likes of Townes Van Zandt, David Ball, and Vince Bell — are lovely and haunting. At the same time, you may wish Lovett hadn’t left all the lyrical heavy lifting to ? his Lone Star compatriots while he busied himself writing larks with hooks like ”I’m gonna choke my chicken all night long.” B Download This: Listen to the song Sun and Moon and Stars at amazon.com See all of this week’s reviews .
Attention, Lyle Lovers: Your man is back with a new album, Natural Forces, his tenth studio album, and third consecutive for the Lost Highway label. Although, as you’ve no doubt learned, if he were always the man that you wanted, he would not be the man that he is. Let’s review how we got here. From 1986 to 1996, Lyle Lovett was hitting with Tony Gwynn-level consistency.
His songwriting muse isn't as active as it once was, but that doesn't prevent Lyle Lovett from making albums that fit pleasingly into his career's output. The lanky Texan composed just five of Natural Forces' 11 songs, the rest being from other Texas-based writers he's long respected, compatriots Eric Taylor, David Ball, Vince Bell, and Townes Van Zandt. Two of his own efforts, "Farmer Brown/Chicken Reel" and "Pantry," feature droll wordplay.