Lyle Lovett

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Pontiac Review

by Mark Deming

While Lyle Lovett's self-titled debut album made it clear he was one the most gifted and idiosyncratic talents to emerge in country music in the 1980s, his follow-up, 1987's Pontiac, took the strengths of his first disc and refined them, and the result was a set whose sound and feel more accurately reflected Lovett's musical personality. While much of Pontiac favors the country side of Lovett's musical personality, the bouncy swing of "Give Back My Heart" and the weepy stroll of "Walk Through the Bottomland" have a lighter touch that suits them noticeably better than the stiffer production and arrangements of the first album, while the breezy snap of "L.A. County" serves as a perfect contrast to the tune's violent dénouement. The second half of the album gives Lovett a chance to indulge his fondness for jazz and blues flavors on the cynical "She's No Lady," "M-O-N-E-Y," and "She's Hot to Go," and if Lovett would follow this path with great musical success on his next few albums, he was already traveling in the right direction and the songs and the arrangements are aces. And it's all but impossible to imagine anyone being given a big push by a major label in Nashville who could get away with the fanciful whimsy of "If I Had a Boat" and the stark and unsettling character sketch of "Pontiac" on the same album. If Lyle Lovett left any doubts at all about this man's gifts as a performer and songwriter, Pontiac proved that he had even more tricks up his sleeve than he'd let on first time out, and it's the first of several masterpieces in Lovett's career.

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