By People Staff
November 03, 2003 12:00 PM

Lyle Lovett


[STARS 3.5]

After doing a covers album (Step Inside This House), a concert CD (Live in Texas) and a soundtrack (Dr. T & the Women), Lyle Lovett makes a spirited—and spiritual—return with his first disc of new songs since 1996’s The Road to Ensenada. While the 14 cuts reflect his usual jazz and western swing influences, the two most affecting tracks—”I’m Going to Wait” and “I’m Going to the Place”—are gospel-oriented. Like the singer’s memorable “God Will,” these tunes initially seem a little strange coming from Lovett, but he arranges and sings them with such zeal that he completely erases the listener’s reservations. Those tracks are mixed in with such straight-ahead numbers as “San Antonio Girl,” the uncharacteristically picaresque “Cute as a Bug” and the standard country highway song “Wallisville Road.” Matt Rollings’s piano and Dean Park’s guitar bolster these songs as well as the rest of the album, raising the musical level to Lovett’s customary lofty standards. Like the great pop 1 composer-pianist-actor Hoagy Carmichael, whom he resembles in many ways, Lovett continues to shift artistic gears without seeming crass or capricious. That’s the beauty of a true country maverick.