Review by Greg Haymes
Since his last visit to The Egg back in December, 2011, Lyle Lovett and His Acoustic Group have become a real band, not merely the star and his backing musicians. That much was obvious from the very start of their concert at The Egg earlier this month, which opened up with Texas tunesmith Lovett and mandolinist Keith Sewell sharing the center-stage microphone for a duet on the bluegrassy “Up in Indiana.” Then for just the second song of the show, Lovett hightailed it off stage, leaving the spotlight to the band as they wound their way through the traditional instrumental “Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom,” led by the exquisite fiddling of Luke Bulla.
Later in the show, Lovett turned to stage over to Bulla again, who delivered the solo “Temperance Reel” (which Bulla co-wrote with Texas great Guy Clark) and took took over the lead vocal chores on the haunting ballad “Remember Well.” A handful of songs later, Sewell stepped up for the lead vocals on “Let Me Fall,” the title track from his new solo album.
Yes, Lovett was certainly generous to his bandmates – who also included the rock-solid rhythm section of bassist Viktor Krauss and legendary session drummer Russ Kunkel – but with a two-and-a-half-hour show, the crowd still got to hear plenty of Lovett, including such classics as the still-surreal “Here I Am” and “If I Had a Boat,” the exquisite “God Will,” the rollicking murder ballad “LA County,” the jazzy “She’s No Lady,” the zippy talking blues “Give Me Back My Heart” and, of course, the undiluted western swing of “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas).”
Not unexpectedly, he also featured a number of selections from his latest album, “Release Me,” an album of covers that ranged from the Ray Price title track to Michael Franks’ “White Boy Lost in the Blues” to “Keep It Clean,” a jaunty 1920s jug-band blues from Charlie Jordan.
Lovett’s between-tune chatter was as off-beat, amusing and unpredictable as his songs, as he chatted with the near-capacity crowd about meeting songwriter Jesse Winchester at the Winnipeg Folk Festival and finding himself alone in an Albany hotel elevator with Olivia Newton John the last time he was in town.
Now more than a quarter century into his recording career, it’s difficult – if not altogether impossible – to remember that he was once considered “country.” Sure, there’s an element of country music in nearly everything he plays, but blues and jazz seemed to be considerably more prominent in his set list on Friday. And folk, gospel and even rock were as much in evidence as country twang.
So whether he’s playing with his Acoustic Group or his Large Band, let’s just consider Lyle Lovett to be a musical category all to himself.
LYLE LOVETT & HIS ACOUSTIC GROUP SET LIST
Up in Indiana
Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom (instrumental – no Lovett)
Farmer Brown/Chicken Reel
Release Me (Ray Price)
Here I Am
White Boy Lost in the Blues (Michael Franks)
Keep It Clean (Charlie Jordan)
Isn’t That So (Jesse Winchester)
Cute as a Bug
Give Back My Heart
I Will Rise Up
Temperance Reel (Luke Bulla solo)
Remember Well (Luke Bulla lead vocal)
You Were Always There
This Old Porch
Let Me Fall (Keith Sewell lead vocal)
If I Had a Boat
She’s No Lady
That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas)
White Freightliner Blues (Townes Van Zandt)
You Can’t Resist It