review by J.C. Hartley
Sight unseen, I presumed this would be a country something from the king of casual but, instead, it turns out to be songs from his 2003 album Smile (MCA), featuring guest turns from Randy Newman, horn player Mark Isham, songstress Francine Reed, gospel singers and a large backing band.
Texan singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett was hailed as something of a saviour of country music when he first appeared, not in the maverick kick out of the corral way that seemed to be the case in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but more as a return to old values. Lovett has won a bunch of awards, appeared in a few movies, and even stayed married to Julia Roberts for a couple of years, but it has to be said this offering is so middle-of-the-road undemanding, that when combined with the slick packaging and production values, for most of its runtime it's almost soporific. Ry Cooder he aint!
Songs from the shows, which is basically what this compilation of hit songs from movies is, would be, for most music careers, an acknowledgement that the performer is entering his twilight years. The mumbled introductions and deadpan deliveries add little to the catalogue and, at times, Lovett himself looks a little phased at what he is presenting. Randy Newman is wheeled out to duet on You've Got A Friend In Me, and sing a couple of his other old numbers, including Political Science, and Let's Drop The Big One Now - which doesn't come across as funny as it did the first time around.
Things start to improve about two thirds of the way through with a sort of Texan medley, an attempt at getting a little chemistry going with Francine Reed doesn't quite come off, although the audience seem to like it, but everything starts firing for the old Ray Charles' number What'd I Say and the surprising show-stopper is I'm A Soldier In The Army Of The Lord (yikes! USA).
Long time fans of Lovett will probably... like this very much, although I have to say his singing for me seems a mite critically detached. This isn't country roots and it isn't big band pizzazz; perhaps he's dried up, perhaps the album was a contractual obligation; file I'm afraid under forgettable.