Lyle Lovett / Lyle Lovett & His Large Band

It's Not Big It's Large

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It's Not Big It's Large, the title of Lyle Lovett's eighth album of original material, harks back to the title of his third album, 1989's Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, the record that definitively signaled that Lovett was a true musical eccentric, as he strayed from the Texas country of his first two albums and wandering into loose-limbed jazz and swinging blues. In the 18 years separating His Large Band and 2007's It's Not Big, Lovett has pretty much stayed within that comfort zone, occasionally drifting a bit closer toward straight-ahead country (as on The Road to Ensenada or My Baby Don't Tolerate) or introspective territory (I Love Everybody, the covers collection Step Inside This House), but It's Not Big is the first time that he's truly emphasized both sides of personality equally since that 1989 record. Where that album had a clean division between the snazzy Large Band material and the country tunes -- a side was devoted to each -- this 2007 album mixes it up on a song-to-song basis, sometimes within the songs themselves, resulting an album that is more cohesive than Large Band, since it's performed with the easy confidence of a gifted singer/songwriter comfortable within his cult. That same mellow assurance also means that It's Not Big isn't quite as memorable as that 1989 near-masterpiece, lacking songs that pack as big a wallop as the sly big-band bluster of "Here I Am" or the ruefully sardonic "Nobody Knows Me." Here, subtly reigns, whether it's on quieter numbers like the sweetly melancholy "South Texas Girl" and "This Traveling Around" or the brighter "All Downhill" and gospel-fueled "Up in Indiana." Subtlety has always been a key part of Lovett's writing, but there are times on It's Not Big where the song is overwhelmed by the performance of the Large Band, who not only command this material, they give these songs performances larger than the tunes themselves. As flaws go, that's not a bad one to have, since it certainly makes for an enjoyable listen, yet it leaves the impression that It's Not Big It's Large is just a little bit too big for its likable but slight foundation.

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