Lyle Lovett

The Road to Ensenada

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Since Pontiac, Lyle Lovett has been experimenting with different sounds, whether it was the big band posturing of Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, the gospel overtones of Joshua Judges Ruth, or the '70s singer/songwriter flourishes of I Love Everybody. With The Road to Ensenada, he hunkers down and produces his most straightforward album since Pontiac. As it happens, it is also his best record since that breakthrough album. Lovett strips the sound of the album down to the bare country essentials, allowing it to drift into Western swing, country-rock, folk, and honky tonk when necessary. He also decides to balance his weightier material ("Private Conversation," "Who Loves You Better," "It Ought to Be Easier," "I Can't Love You Anymore," "Christmas Morning") with fun, lighthearted numbers like "Don't Touch My Hat," "Fiona," and "That's Right (You're Not From Texas)," which are funny without being silly. In fact, The Road to Ensenada is the lightest album Lyle Lovett has ever made -- the darkness that hung around the fringes of Pontiac, Joshua Judges Ruth, and I Love Everybody has drifted away, leaving his wry sense of humor and a newly found empathetic sentimentality. The combination of straightforward instrumentation and lean, catchy, and incisive songwriting results in one of the best albums of his career -- he's just as eclectic and off-handedly brilliant as he has always been, but on The Road to Ensenada he's more focused and less flashy about his own talent than he's ever been.

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