Lyle Lovett: My Baby Don't Tolerate

Hank Kalet

Lyle Lovett

My Baby Don't Tolerate

Label: Lost Highway
US Release Date: 2003-09-30
UK Release Date: 2003-10-20

The fiddle and piano lines that open Lyle Lovett's newest album, My Baby Don't Tolerate, offer an immediate indication of what Lovett has in store for the listener this time out.

The opening cut, "Cute As a Bug", gets the eight-piece band swinging country-style, with Stuart Duncan's fiddle giving way to a funky piano run by Matt Rollings and slick solos by Duncan and Paul Franklin on steel guitar.

It's big, rollicking sound, the essence of the best of modern country music while harkening back to Texas swing bands like Bob Willis and His Texas Playboys -- that's the table setter for this solid 14-song effort, his 12th album (including an anthology disc issued in 2001 and collection issued earlier this year of songs he recorded for the cinema).

Lovett is a genre-bending cowboy, a singer and songwriter who revels in a mix of musical styles and who brings a literate sensibility to his lyrics. He is very much a country crooner, but owes a significant debt to the country-influenced singer-songwriters of the 1970s. And he mixes into his often funky brew strands of jazz, blues, R&B, roots rock, gospel and a host of other heartland musical styles. Stirring this mix, of course, is one of the most distinctive voices in music today, a comfortable baritone edged with a Texas twang.

Lyrically, the new disc does not stand up to his earlier outings, though there are gems here a-plenty, and Lovett has mixed what are some magnificent ballads -- in particular, "In My Own Mind" and "You Were Always There" -- in among a stew of up-tempo tunes, closing with a pair of dancing-in-the-aisles gospel songs.

"You Were Always There" is perhaps the best tune on the disc, a haunting song about loss and love, Lyle's voice supported by Rollings's delicious piano. "Now there's no one left to guide me / Tell me now what I'm supposed to do / Oh what I'm supposed to do".

But there is no one to answer the singer, though reminders of the lost one are present everywhere. "I feel the wind blow", he sings, "It's rushing through my hair / Out in the shadows / Your face is everywhere".

And while "A new horizon / It's all supposed to be" and there is "the voice of / Eternal hope and love" coming from above, there remains that emptiness, as the song fades on a pleading, repeating refrain -- "You were always there".

"In My Own Mind" is a reflection on self, on the ability of one to find that place of calm within one's self, "where I can breathe". The song drifts back and forth between the tangible -- morning coffee, the plowing of the fields, his hunting and fishing buddies, his wife "standing in the kitchen" -- and his internal life, summed up in the chorus. "I live in my own mind", he sings, "Ain't nothing but a good time / No rain, just sunshine / Out here in my own mind".

While the ballads contain the lyrical punch, it is the up-tempo songs that add the exclamation point -- particularly the two gospel shouts that close the disc, the powerful "I'm Going to Wait", with its refrain of "I'm going to wait / Just a little bit longer / Until my Savior / He comes for me", and "I'm Going to the Place".

On first listen, songs like "Cute As a Bug" or "San Antonio Girl" are rather lightweight, simple ditties that in someone else's hands might go nowhere. But Lovett and his band play each song with a level of commitment and an intensity that should force even the most skeptical of listeners to just tap their feet and go with the flow.

"Cute As a Bug", as I said, opens with that short repeating fiddle and piano line and then jumps into a full band swing, a real country dervish that makes it easy to forget that this is a simple song about a man whose spirits are raised by the fleeting sight of a woman behind the wheel of a Volkswagen. The title cut is a bluesy, tongue-in-cheek paean to the singer's lover, who apparently keeps the wayward singer in check. He knows "Some things / My baby don't tolerate", which is OK because "a smaller more ordinary man / Might not appreciate the guidance of a good woman / Who truly loves him". The singer does, because "I'm proof that true love will / Set you free".

It's not innovative music, not groundbreaking or trend setting, but it is passionate -- which is what makes songs like "Cute As a Bug", the title cut and the other up-tempo tunes such great fun to listen to.

And that, ultimately, is what Lovett's mission appears to be here, to get past all the baggage that weighs us down, to find that girl in the Volkswagen or that "San Antonio Girl" and take that "long drive / That gives him some peace of mind" as he waits for the Judgment Day.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.