It would be an understandable impulse to try to plumb this phenomenal record for clues to the dissolution of Lovett’s marriage to Julia Roberts, which unraveled in March of 1995. A bit of unsolicited advice: Don’t bother. In the first place, the intensely private Lovett holds his emotional cards close to his vest, and secondly, such an exercise would needlessly distract from your enjoyment of this exquisite, career-defining display of songwriting.
Instead, just bask in the aural glow of “That’s Right (You’re Not from Texas),” a foot-stompin’ slice of western swing that is bound to become a Lovett concert staple. Or feel your spirits lift as the spry hillbilly anthem “Fiona” wafts through your speakers. If you like a good yarn, let ol’ Lyle spin a little tale about a bar-stool operator who lassos a pretty lady in the samba-flecked “Her First Mistake,” concluding, “I just keep on running faster/ Chasing the happily/1 am ever after.” As always, Lovett’s Olympian band is taut and powerful, with Paul Franklin on pedal steel and Stuart Duncan on fiddle, drenching each note with raw emotion. Now that he’s no longer “Mr. Roberts,” squinting under the media’s glare, Lovett is free to be his witty, illuminating best. (Curb/MCA)