Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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LOVETT, Lyle

(b 1 Nov. '57) Country singer, songwriter. Grew up 25 miles north of Houston TX in the Klein community, named after an ancestor who helped found it in the 1840s. Degrees in journalism and German from Texas A&M, began performing '79; wrote a song for and appeared in TV movie Bill On His Own with Mickey Rooney '83, played in Europe that year; made demo tracks with Billy Williams from Phoenix band J. David Sloan leading to a writing contract with Criterion Music, record deal with MCA/Curb. Lyle Lovett '86 had country big band infl. by Bob Wills, ten songs, nine written by Lovett, one ('This Old Porch') co-written with Robert Earl Keen, another up-and-coming talent; the album and several singles charted: 'You Can't Resist It' had Rosanne Cash singing backup, 'Closing Time' was covered by Lacy J. Dalton. An appearance at Texas songwriters concert saw the Washington Post describe him as 'the real find' of the show, 'a Lone Star Tom Waits'. Guy Clark invited him to sing at an Austin Opera House gig; strong songs with sharp observation had him opening shows for Emmylou Harris and Randy Newman. After Pontiac '88 on MCA he did an acoustic gig in London with just his own guitar and a cello. Lyle Lovett And His Large Band '89 saw him breaking the country music stereotype while not leaving the values behind, but disenchanted with Nashville he moved to LA and Joshua Judges Ruth '92 with guests Harris and Ricky Lee Jones was much too eclectic for country taste. He played support for Dire Straits' first world tour of the '90s; played a cameo in The Player that year, met Julia Roberts on the set and married her; his next album, I Love Everybody '94, had been provisionally titled Creeps Like Me, a reference to critics who pay more attention to haircuts than to talent, and wondered why Roberts had married someone so funny-looking. He also appeared in Robert Altman films Short Cuts and Pret--Porter but his new fame didn't help record sales. By the time of The Road To Ensenada '96 he and Roberts had split up; the album was more country than the last one, but still had doo-wop vocal backing, jazz piano and a hoedown fiddle all on one track, as well as some cameo vocals by Newman. He toured larger European venues '96 with Mary Chapin Carpenter, gaining rave reviews; the man is unclassifiable and one of the most intriguing artists around.