Lyle Lovett

Release Me

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Some 27 years after Lyle Lovett signed with Curb Records he brings the association to an end with Release Me, a collection of covers and oddities to usher the singer out of his contract. Lyle makes no bones about his departure, not with the album's title or its cover of Lovett tied up in a lariat, but for as misshapen and wooly as it is, Release Me actually doesn't play like a contractual obligation. Sure, Lovett may have only two writing credits among these 14 songs and both of the cuts are holiday tunes, but the appeal of Release Me is that it's decidedly messier than Lyle has allowed himself to be on record. And it's a mess with purpose, too: the album touches upon nearly every style Lovett has tried on since he signed with Curb in 1985, so it's a summation yet it lacks pretension. His good humor is evident throughout, surfacing not only on the randy good humor of "The Girl with the Holiday Smile," but infusing the rollicking, loose-limbed rhythms of the rest of the record. There are a handful of slower, contemplative moments, but Release Me is an unquestioned celebration where the blues are the soundtrack for a good time and Chuck Berry's "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man" is slowed down to a knowing, soulful crawl. There's an ease to Release Me that's utterly charming -- Lovett is relaxing into the songs and sounds he loves, and he hasn't sounded like so much fun in years.

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