December 17, 2003


Cowboy Cool: Lyle Lovett returns to songwriting--and town--with My Baby Don't Tolerate (ROB PATTERSON, December 11, 2003, Dallas Observer)

With the exception of two of his gospel-flavored numbers, My Baby Don't Tolerate is probably Lovett's most country recording since his eponymous debut nearly 18 years ago. That is, "if you call what I do country. Most of these arrangements are kind of country. I think my stuff's a lot more country than country stuff these days," he notes.

It's an observation rather than a bitch point when Lovett talks about what Nashville calls country. After all, he's hardly been shut out by the industry, as some off-brand country artists feel they have. Rather, Lovett has coaxed together his own audience from the peripheries of country, folk, softer rock, jazz and more. If he is country music, he's the Williams-Sonoma or NPR of country--upscale fare for discerning, intelligent consumers--and not the NASCAR or CMT.

Yet Lovett's not afraid to get his boots--though probably not his collection of hand-tooled treasures--down in the mud and manure of real life on the farm. The place he lives in the world is Klein, a town outside Houston founded by his mother's family in the late 1840s. With suburbia sprawling its way in during recent decades, the family spread was broken up. "Most of the place was sold out of the family in 1980. And I wasn't able to buy it back until 1995," he explains. "So I really feel like my life's work has been just trying to keep as much of my grandpa's place together as I can.

"My family is very important to me. And our home place is important to me," says Lovett, who warned going into the phone interview that a call may come in about the flowers he is sending to his mother, who will turn 74 the next day. "My uncle still works the place. [His name is Calvin Klein, and his jeans are not designer.] Our place is the home base for his cattle operation." Lovett also started a breeding operation for quarter horses for the track he has overseen since his father's passing. And, of course, he keeps riding horses.

Yes, Lovett was once tabloid fodder during his romance with Julia Roberts, a.k.a. America's Sweetheart. And yes, he records in Los Angeles and rubs shoulders and appears in movies with Hollywood hotshots. But when asked if being back home in Texas is a respite from show business, he hesitates a bit and ponders the notion. "Well...yeah! I guess. Not that you need relief from it. I love playing music. I love sitting around in my house playing the guitar trying to make up songs. That's what I always did for fun."

Then Lovett reaches for a feeling. "It still doesn't seem like a real job to me. What seems like a real job is making sure you've got the winter grass planted and the fertilizer out. Making sure the animals are taken care of. That's a responsibility that you have to look after constantly. And that's the kind of stuff I grew up around that was considered to be a real job. This deal--I'm not sure it'll ever feel like a real job. I feel really privileged to do it. It's fun."

That whole Roberts romance is still deeply disturbing, but his music's terrific.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 17, 2003 7:55 AM

So they're saying Lyle's music is the kind country music yuppie snobs can enjoy without being tainted by the working trash?

Why,how egalitarian of them.

Posted by: M. at December 17, 2003 11:24 AM

Certain country entertainers manage to cross over to earn a place of honor within the mainsteam bi-costal entertainment industry by way of their lifstyle (Willie Nelson), looks (Dolly Parton, Shania Twain), or, ahem, moonbat political statments (Natalie Maines). But they do have to release at least some decent music in order to get noticed by the New York/Los Angeles crowd in the first place.

Posted by: John at December 17, 2003 7:40 PM