For all of Lyle Lovett's considerable artistic gifts — a distinctive voice, easygoing charisma, rare talent for wordplay — his greatest attribute may be the way he radiates infectious calm. He's a one-time tabloid fixture who writes wry, bittersweet songs of longing, but Lovett in person is like a vortex into which stress and drama disappear. That's especially true now that he's fulfilled his obligations to his longtime record label: Lovett not only showed up at NPR Music's offices without an entourage, but also booked his Tiny Desk Concert himself, emailing us out of the blue to express his interest. (Our reply: "We would only agree to have you perform a Tiny Desk Concert if it's under any conceivable circumstance.")
So it's appropriate that Lovett would open this performance at the NPR Music offices by performing "Cowboy Man," the first track on his 1986 debut: He may be a music-industry veteran, but in many ways, he's starting over. With a fresh-faced accompanist in fiddler and backup singer Luke Bulla, Lovett gives a loose, engaging performance that feels like both an introduction and a victory lap.
He follows "Cowboy Man" with two songs from 1989's Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, so this is no mere promotional appearance. With nothing in particular to promote — though he did put out an album of covers, Release Me, earlier in the year — Lovett seems motivated primarily by the sheer joy of playing his songs. His pleasure is infectious.
- "Cowboy Man"
- "If You Were To Wake Up"
- "Good Intentions"
Producer: Stephen Thompson; Editor: Denise DeBelius; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Denise DeBelius, Christopher Parks, Stephen Thompson; photo by Ryan Smith/NPR