Lyle Lovett

Live in Texas

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In a way, Lyle Lovett has operated on two different levels since the beginning of his career. For many listeners, including critics, he's an exceptionally talented songwriter, revealing himself as the equal to such inspirations as Randy Newman. However, unlike most singer/songwriters, he's an entertainer, putting on one hell of a show every time he takes the stage. And that may be why Live in Texas is such a good album: For the first time, Lovett the entertainer has been captured on record. Not that his previous albums have been dry, but it's a pleasure to hear Lovett play with an audience (they love it, laughing at the punch lines in "Here I Am" and listening dead quiet to "North Dakota") and his songs, delivering vibrant, loose-limbed performances that confirm what a rich catalog he has. Recorded in Austin and San Antonio just prior to the release of his 1998 covers album Step Inside This House, Live in Texas is nearly a greatest-hits collection, graced with a couple of idiosyncratic choices (including a showcase for vocalist Francine Reed, "Wild Women Don't Get the Blues") that are nice additions to a uniformly excellent set of songs. Since Lovett never breaks from his recorded arrangements, what brings Live in Texas to life is the spirit of the performances, which not only rival the original recordings, but at times are more energetic or humorous. That doesn't necessarily make it a better album than any of his studio efforts -- like most live albums, it plays better if you already know the material -- but it's undeniably hard to resist.

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