Entertainment

Don't mess with Lyle Lovett

If there's one guy who's become almost synonymous with Texas, it's Lyle Lovett.

Not only has he sung more rhapsodies to his home state than he can count — including the well-known "That's Right (You're Not From Texas)" —he's also released a double album, "Step Inside This House," full of songs written by his favorite Texas tunesmiths. And the word "live" in his only live album, "Live in Texas," is intended to rhyme with give, not jive.

Lovett will perform at the Orpheum Saturday in Wichita.

His current release, "Natural Forces," is another collection of songs written by many of the same Lone Star folks who populate "Step Inside This House": Townes Van Zandt, David Ball, Vince Bell, Eric Taylor, Tommy Elskes and Don Sanders. Lovett also includes a song he co-wrote with Robert Earl Keen ("It's Rock and Roll") and another with his fiance, April Kimble ("Pantry"), plus two solo compositions: the title tune and "Farmer Brown/Chicken Reel."

Lovett has never fit into the country slot Nashville initially intended for him. He's as much a jazz, gospel, blues, swing and folk artist as he is anything related to country.

While the up-tempo "Pantry" and "Farmer Brown/Chicken Reel" are laden with fiddles (and humorous double entendres), and "It's Rock and Roll" is an uncharacteristic actual rocker reminiscent in tone to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "What's Your Name," the covers in "Natural Forces" are more often poignant. They're more about the songwriter and the singer than any genre.

"It's fun to record somebody else's song, but you always want to do justice to it," Lovett said during a conversation in one of his favorite lunchtime haunts near his home in Klein, outside Houston.

When Lovett is not out touring with his big-as-Texas Large Band, he has been doing intimate songwriter-in-the-round shows with bandmate Guy Clark, fellow Texan Joe Ely and Tennessean John Hiatt. The four have even recorded together, but so far red tape with their respective record labels has prevented them from releasing a CD. Lovett says he hopes it will see the light of day.

In the meantime, when he's not on the road, he stays close to the family homestead. Lovett lives on farmland his family has owned since his great-great-grandfather on his mother's side started the German-Lutheran town. He breeds quarter horses, and is involved in the National Reining Horse Association. He even references an association riding event in the song "Natural Forces," and used an actual announcer's voice in it.

If there's one thing Lovett, like most Texans, is about, it's authenticity. You can hear it in every song on "Natural Forces" — and on every song he's ever done, whether he wrote it or simply made it his own.

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