LYLE LOVETT AND HIS ACOUSTIC GROUP play Roy Thomson Hall tonight (Thursday, July 26). See listing. Rating: NNN
As a musician, Lyle Lovett is almost above reproach. He knows his way around the roots music lexicon, infusing his songs with playfulness or wistfulness as needed. At his best, he can induce a lump in the throat or a curl of a smile with just a couple of lines. With the exception of his straight-faced rendering of Tammy Wynette's Stand By Your Man, these moments have occurred in songs penned by him.
And so Release Me, an album featuring only a couple of his own tunes, falls short of greatness. It opens with sprightly traditional instrumental Garfield's Blackberry Blossom, and his voice intertwines beautifully with a restrained k.d. lang on the title track. But another coy cover of Baby, It's Cold Outside is too familiar to be exciting.
Familiarity is the downfall of much of the album. Whether the song is widely known or one Lovett thinks deserves more attention, it's been given a homespun arrangement. Some stand up to the violins and mandolins, but others get overwhelmed.
Top track: Understand You