When discussing musical preferences with people, I can usually tell a lot about a person’s musical knowledge by their reaction when I mention that I am a fan of Lyle Lovett. The most common response I get is “Wasn’t he married to Julia Roberts?”
Sadly, it is true that Lovett is probably best known to the general public as Roberts’ ex-husband. However, for those who know their music, Lovett is known for his brilliant songwriting and impossible to pin down sound. This year for Christine’s birthday I took her to see Lovett at Wolf Trap and it was time and money well-spent.
The Large Band took the stage on-time and burned through a jazzy instrumental. At it’s conclusion Lovett took the stage along with a 6 man, 6 woman vocal section and broke into the gospel-influenced “I Will Rise Up”; starting the show on a rousing high note. Lovett has always been virtually impossible to categorize by genre. When he broke big in the 80s he was billed as a country artist but over the years he has broadened his sound to include jazz, gospel, western swing, blues, folk, and bluegrass; with his voice in fine form and his band at the top of their game, they brought out all of these sounds on Wednesday night.
Lovett’s band lives up to their billing: a fiddle player, a cello player, two lead guitarists, a mandolin player, a keyboardist, a steel guitar player, string bass player, and a drummer (long-time session man Russ Kunkel) all helped to create a big, rich, driving sound. As if that wasn’t enough, Lovett brought out local legend Mike Auldridge of the Seldom Scene (arguably the best bluegrass outfit ever to come out of the D.C. area) to play Dobro for a few songs, concluding with the hilarious “Keep It In Your Pantry.” A generous band leader, Lovett allowed most of them a chance to shine on their respective instruments and shared lead parts with three of members of the vocal section. The occasional between-song banter and quirky introductions to some of the songs showed that the bone-dry wit of Lovett’s writing is also a part of his personality.
Lovett played numbers from just about every one of his albums, and they all sounded fresh. Highlights from the 2 & 1/2 hour set included “Cowboy Man,” “This Old Porch” (co-written with his Texas A & M roommate Robert Earl Keen), “If I Were The Man You Wanted,” “I’ve Been To Memphis,” “The Truck Song,” “My Baby Don’t Tolerate,” “Church,” “Ain’t No Cane,””Give Back My Heart,” “That’s Right You’re Not From Texas,” and “San Antonio Girl.” He encored with the rousing “I’m A Soldier in the Army of The Lord” and one of my personal favorites, “If I Had A Boat.”
Without question, this show makes my top 5 concerts, ever. If you ever get the chance to catch Lovett, don’t miss it.