While Lyle Lovett's debut album is easily the closest he's ever come to making a straight country disc, right out of the box Lovett made it clear he was an eccentric in the great Texas tradition, and rather than sounding like the new boy in Nashville, he presented himself as the odd but likable distant relative of Guy Clark and Jesse Winchester. While "This Old Porch" and "If I Were the Man You Wanted" proved he could write a sincere and affecting song as well as anyone, they also made clear that he wasn't cut out for Nashville-style radio-ready singles, while the ironic "Cowboy Man" and the wickedly cynical cheating song "God Will" proved Lovett possessed a genius for taking traditional formulas and giving them a hard twist. The jazzy sway of "An Acceptable Level of Ecstasy (The Wedding Song)" offers a witty and engaging preview of the blues-flavored sound Lovett would hone on later albums, and in this context the tunefully obsessive "You Can't Resist It" sounds like the great pop hit he never had. While under Tony Brown's production (and with a team of Nashville session vets backing him up) some of the sharper edges of Lovett's musical personality were smoothed down, Lovett's reedy but soulful voice shines through, and a casual listen confirms that Lovett's music was just as strong as his lyrics. Along with Steve Earle's Guitar Town, Lyle Lovett was one of the most promising and exciting debut albums to come out of Nashville in the 1980s, and like Earle's album, this set a high bar for what would become an exciting and idiosyncratic career, proving first-rank singer/songwriters didn't just come from New York or Los Angeles.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming