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Lyle Lovett Showcases His Versatility on Release Me

  • Christa Banister Contributing Writer
  • 2012 12 Mar
Lyle Lovett Showcases His Versatility on <i>Release Me</i>

Lyle Lovett

Title: Release Me

Label: Lost Highway

If we've learned anything from American Idols various "theme nights" it's that it takes a pretty rare talent to successfully span the genres.

But for singer/songwriter Lyle Lovett, an underrated artist who emerged on the country scene in the mid ‘80s and has donned a variety of musical hats ever since, his rather eclectic career is proof positive that successfully keeping listeners guessing is truly an art.

Now with his latest album, Release Me, a unique collection of carefully selected cover tunes and a couple of originals, Lovett's versatility is definitely front and center whether he's singing the blues, showcasing his jazzier side or serving up the folk/country/Americana stylings he's probably best known for. 

In the grand tradition of his previous work, the journey that Lovett takes the listener on is one fraught with emotion. Whether it's the heartbreaking tale of a sailor's daughter who misses her father so much that it leads her to murder in "Dress of Laces," which features Nickel Creek's Sara Watkins on backing vocals or his feisty take on the Michael Franks' classic "White Boy Lost in the Blues," Lovett says so much with his understated but affecting vocal delivery.

Perhaps a tad out of place on a non-holiday effort, "The Girl With the Holiday Smile," which was featured on last year's Songs for the Season EP, is also one of the album's highlights. A whimsical tale of a meet-cute that's really anything but, the jazzy piano, not to mention a memorable cameo by a fiddle make it a true standout. 

While some listeners will undoubtedly find themselves missing Lovett's distinct songwriting style since he didn't actually pen much new material for Release Me, Lovett still does a great job of putting his unique spin on these time-honored tracks. And considering he's in the midst of a transition to another record label, that's certainly better than waiting in the meantime, right?

*This Review First Published 3/12/2012