I really had planned on a Lyle Lovett Bootleg Country before I knew that I’d be seeing and reviewing him for an actually attended live concert, I promise.
Lyle Lovett is, perhaps, best known for his short-lived marriage to superstar Julia Roberts. When they wed many folks were asking, “how could she marry him?” but to partially quote marketing material from Say Anything, to know Lyle Lovett is to love him.
Recently while trying to compose a list of my all time favorite bands in response to Eric Berlin's I kept coming back to Lyle. He isn’t a poet like Dylan, or a pop craftsman like Lennon/McCartney but he has something that elevates him above just about everyone else- to me anyways.
His lyrics have a way of being both hilarious and poignant at the same time. In person he has a dry, wry delivery that makes even the most mundane of stories beautifully humorous.
His style has changed a lot over the years from straight-ahead Nashville country to Texas swing to the more folkie, alt-country stylings of today. He’s a bit like Willie Nelson in his ability to write songs that hold true to whoever is singing them.
This is one of my favorite all-time bootlegs. The sound is absolutely perfect. It makes me feel like Lyle is in my living room, playing for my friends. The music is lovely, and Lyle chats it up as if he is at a family reunion instead of in front of a paying audience.
He is playing with a scaled down version of his Large Band. The horns have been nixed, the back up singers are gone, all that’s left is Lyle on acoustic guitar, drums, acoustic bass and cello. Similar to Nirvana on Unplugged, this spare style highlights Lyle’s beautiful songwriting ability.
It was recorded a few months before the release of Joshua, Judges, Ruth so all the material here is more than a decade old. Yet it still sounds vital and refreshing. It helps that much of what is played is new material, so classic songs like “Church” and “The Last Time” are revitalized with an audience laughing for the first time at the jokes.
In fact, “The Last Time” is a great example of lyrics that provoke both a sense of humor and depth. It starts out with,
“I went to a funeral
Lord it made me happy
Seeing all those people
I ain't seen
Since the last time
Immediately, there is the ironic humor of being happy going to a funeral and yet the understanding of truth lying behind how we often don’t see those we love unless something serious happens.
If I have a complaint on this disk at all, it is that during “You Can’t Resist It” he allows his musicians time to solo, spoiling an otherwise wonderful song. I’m all for good soloing, but there is only so much cello-bongo soloing I can take. But this is but a few minutes of two disks full of nearly perfect music.
The sound here is pristine. I don’t have any conclusive source material, but it’s as close to sitting on stage as you’re going to get with a bootleg.