Review: “Natural Forces,” Lyle Lovett

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Texas singer/songwriter Lyle Lovett isn’t a flashy performer, and these days he apparently isn’t a prolific songwriter.  Yet on Natural Forces, Lovett puts his singular stamp on 11 songs that fit comfortably on the shelf alongside his other work.  But the album isn’t a step forward: Lovett only wrote or co-wrote five songs here, and the rest are from Lone Star state writers that Lovett admires.  Here Lovett takes a rather haphazard approach to the songs, which could be considered a change of pace from this usually careful artist.  It all adds to up a throwaway album that is pleasant listening, but in the end has only a few keepers.

It seems no album from a Texas artist today is complete without an obligatory Townes Van Zandt cover song, and Lovett here covers “Loretta,” one of Van Zandt’s more upbeat tunes.  And Lyle’s version is a winner, conveying a bit of soul-felt peace and calm as it comes toward the end of the album.  The keepers include the restless title song, written by Lovett, and the bluesy weeper “Empty Blue Shoes,” also a Lovett composition.  The sad “Whooping Crane,” by Eric Taylor, is affecting as it laments the passing of a natural treasure.

A few double-entrendes populate “Pantry,” co-written by Lyle and his girlfriend April Kimble, and the western swinger “Farmer Brown/Chicken Reel,” which at least give the album some life.  Natural Forces will find an audience, for sure – but it won’t earn this revered artists that many new fans.  This so-so album feels almost like a holding pattern; although it has its moments, you would expect more from a great artist like Lyle Lovett.

MP3: “Pantry”

Lyle Lovett official website

YouTube: Lyle Lovett performs “Bohemia” and “Natural Forces” on British TV

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