Lyle Lovett
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Texas-born Lyle Lovett got his start in the music business when he wrote If I Were the Woman You Wanted (1984) for a country artist.

His debut album, Lyle Lovett (MCA, 1986), was hardly country music, though. Lovett's eclectic arrangements, moody phrasing and literate lyrics displayed the talent of a singer-songwriter in the vein of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. The album's songs (Farther Down the Line, Cowboy Man, Why I Don't Know, Give Back My Heart, the anthemic God Will) borrow from country, rock, rhythm'n'blues, jazz, folk and pop.

Lovett's musical skills matured on Pontiac (1988), which achieves a formidable balance of atmosphere, tunesmith, rhythm and melody. The pensive soul-jazz shuffle She's No Lady, the melancholy country ballad I Loved You Yesterday the ebullient swing ditty She's Hot To Go and the mournful blues Pontiac cover a lot of territory without ever sounding self-indulgent.

Lovett embraced big-band jazz with Lyle Lovett & His Large Band (1989). Although the heavily arranged songs rarely attain the nirvana of previous albums (Cryin' Shame), and two of the best ones limit the emphasis (the country lament I Married Her Just Because She Looks like You and the blues meditation Here I Am), the experiment mostly worked and proved that Lovett was a major figure in the alternative renaissance of the late 1980s.

Relocating to Los Angeles, Lovett veered towards gospel and soul on Joshua Judges Ruth (1992), a strong collection of originals: She Makes Me Feel Good, the tenderly melancholy She's Already Made Up Her Mind, the waltzing and funereal Family Reserve, the gospel-ish Church, the big-band swing I've Been To Memphis, the lounge jazz number All My Love Is Gone, and the bleakly evocative North Dakota and Baltimore.

Lovett's career received quite a bit of attention from the media after he was briefly (1993-95) married to actress Julia Roberts. As a matter of act, this period marked a decline in Lovett's creativity. I Love Everybody (1994) collects unreleased songs from the previous decades. Lovett returned to his country roots with The Road to Ensenada (1996), the first collection of original material since Joshua Judges Ruth, albeit a rather conventional one (Promises). Step Inside This House (1998) is an album of cover songs, and Dr T & the Women (MCA, 2000) is the soundtrack to a Robert Altman film. Anthology (2001) contains two new songs, The Truck Song and San Antonio Girl, besides many of his classics.

My Baby Don't Tolerate (2003), the first album of (new) original compositions since The Road to Ensenada (1996), is another disappointment, another far cry from Joshua Judges Ruth.

It's Not Big It's Large (2007) marked a return to form with a string of elegiac originals, but the best of Natural Forces (2009) are the covers, and that's a damning sentence.

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