Lyle Lovett

My Baby Don't Tolerate

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Lyle Lovett is many things, but prolific is not one of them. Yes, at the outset of his career, he released an album every year or two, but by the time he became a star in the early '90s, he slowed down quite a bit. Between 1992's Joshua Judges Ruth and 2003's My Baby Don't Tolerate, his first release on Lost Highway, he only released one album of new original material: The Road to Ensenada, in 1996, which followed 1994's I Love Everybody, a clearing-house of songs he wrote before his first album. So, My Baby Don't Tolerate is his first album of new songs in seven years, and two of its 14 songs -- "The Truck Song" and "San Antonio Girl" -- were previously released on 2001's Anthology, Vol. 1 (which is bound to frustrate fans that bought that uneven collection just for the new tunes), leaving this as a collection of 12 new songs. Given the long wait between albums and since the record is so firmly in the tradition of The Road to Ensenada that it could be branded a sequel, there may be an initial feeling of anticlimax, since there's not that many songs and they all feel familiar. Such is the complication of a long wait -- it invariably raises expectations -- but judged as a collection of songs against Lovett's other albums, My Baby Don't Tolerate holds its own very well. As mentioned above, it is very similar to The Road to Ensenada, sharing that album's clean, unadorned production, directness, and preponderance of straight-ahead country songs. And it's not just that the album is country; it's that many of his eccentricities are toned down, to the point that when Lovett ends the album with two gospel numbers, they sound like shtick. Even the handful of ballads are lighter, lacking the somber introspection of Joshua Judges Ruth or the subtleness of I Love Everybody. Everything here is out in the open, and it's the better for it; musically, it may offer no surprises, but its directness is appealing, particularly because Lovett simply sounds good singing country songs. And that's what My Baby Don't Tolerate offers -- Lovett singing good country songs and sounding good. It's not a complicated pleasure, but it doesn't need to be, and after a long dry spell, it sure is nice to have a new collection of songs from this reliable songwriter.

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