Lyle Lovett

Anthology, Vol. 1: Cowboy Man

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Check the subhead in the title -- yes, this may be an anthology, but this isn't a greatest hits, it's a collection of songs that emphasize Lyle Lovett's country side and, therefore, is pitched directly at the country audience that never had much truck with him after he started singing "Stand By Your Man," playing with His Large Band, and indulging his passion for Randy Newman. In other words, it's not really representative, particularly in how it consciously avoids his status as a leader of the alt-country movement in the first Bush era. His Large Band, Joshua Judges Ruth, and I Love Everybody are entirely avoided (perhaps saved for Vol. 2), and even good portions of Lovett's country work are ignored, such as "You're Not From Texas" and the rest of The Road to Ensenada, for that matter. That's not really a complaint, but their absence feels more puzzling since two new songs are thrown in for good measure (the really good "The Truck Song," plus "San Antonio Girl"). In any regard, this is a good summary of Lovett's first two albums, containing most of the great songs from those records -- "God Will," "This Old Porch," "If I Were the Man You Wanted," "If I Had a Boat," "Walk Through the Bottomland," and "LA County" are as good as music got in the '80s, and it's a pleasure to hear them in any context. Even so, it's hard to shake the nagging feeling that the whole story isn't told with this collection, and it's even harder not to notice that Lovett hasn't released a collection of original songs since 1996 -- and, for the hardcore fans who are suckered in by the two new songs, it'll be hard not to wish that a full-fledged album is around the corner sometime soon.

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