Lyle Lovett is always versatile and entertaining, and an expert singer/storyteller. On his upcoming recording, Release Me, he delivers unique, enjoyable songs as always, ranging from bluegrass to Texas swing to blues, jazz, and gospel, all with his own unmistakeable touch. This release is particularly significant, as it represents Lovett’s final work with Curb Records, his label since his debut in 1985. He finishes his stint with the label as he started, with quality work from beginning to end.
Opening with a fabulous, danceable instrumental, “Garfield’s Blackberry Jam,” a bluegrass number with a decidedly Celtic sound, the CD then continues with a heartfelt and authentic version of the country classic, “Release Me.” Done as a duet, the track finds Lovett singing with k.d. lang, who provides a perfect match for his voice.
“White Boy Lost in the Blues” features Lovett’s classic storytelling style, and then the singer joins with Texas songstress Kat Edmonson to rescue “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from the realm of strictly Christmas music. This sly, suggestive duet is just as delightful in January as it was in December!
A little later, Lovett delivers another holiday-inspired original, “The Girl With the Holiday Smile.” Both “The Girl With the Holiday Smile” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” as well as the bonus track here, “Christmastime is Here,” were originally included on Lovett’s Christmas EP, Songs of the Season.
“Understand You” is a tender ballad which highlights Lovett’s ability to express tenderness and longing, contrasting his quirkier numbers. This is followed by possibly my favorite cut on the CD, a totally renovated, slowed-down of Chuck Berry’s “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man,” which changes the rocker into a song-story without essentially changing the lyrics.
Next is a tasty, funny little swing number called “Keep It Clean,” with a jumpy, infectious rhythm and laugh-out-loud lyrics.
“One Way Gal” is another storytelling song of the sort Lovett has been known for throughout his career, and is followed by sadder story-song, “Dress of Laces,” which is so empathetic in its portrayal of a poor and less fortunate woman that it will bring tears to many eyes.
“Night’s Lullaby” brings us a sweet goodnight song, and is immediately followed by a complete change of pace with Townes Van Zandt’s “White Freightliner,” a country charmer that chugs along like the train in its title. The CD proper ends with the slow, solemn gospel of “Keep Us Steadfast.”
There is one more bonus track on the CD, another gospel number, “Isn’t It So?”, rounding out what is a fabulous and eclectic album that reaffirms Lyle Lovett as an amazingly talented, genre-crossing artist.