Many country musicians seem most comfortable at the Grand Ole Opry or a small-town whiskey bar, but Lyle Lovett is more than a country artist. Lovett, who plays Overture Hall Aug. 19, is a Texas boy who grew up with western swing and gospel, a curious soul who fell in love with blues and jazz when he learned to play guitar. All these influences shape his songs, which stretch over 13 albums and more than 30 years of music-making.
Then there's his ancillary acting career, which has led him to roles in four Robert Altman films and a smattering of TV shows. The man has a presence, thanks to a rare fusion of effortless cool and humble warmth.
So it's fitting that the Texas Commission on the Arts named Lovett one of the state's official musicians for 2011. He's the perfect goodwill ambassador for a state that sometimes needs a PR boost.
In his new role, Lovett has been traveling the country to do what he does best - charm sold-out venues with his songwriting talents - while reminding the public that Texas is a hotbed of charisma and creativity. Lovett teamed with John Hiatt for the first leg of this journey, adding Frank Gehry-designed performance spaces and architecture-school fundraisers to his customary tour of history-drenched theaters and opera houses. After tackling some of Texas' most ornate stages, Lovett parted ways with Hiatt and hit the national road with his band.
The tour also showcases Lovett's latest album, Natural Forces, which earned a top-10 spot on the country charts and positive reviews from Paste and the BBC. The LP is both a sonic storybook and a landscape painting of sorts, exploring America's nooks and crannies with poetic imagery and characters that range from hilarious to tragic. Oklahoma wind and the breeze of a barroom fan converge to summon a storm of emotions in "Sun and Moon and Stars." Meanwhile, "Whooping Crane" mourns the loss of the frontier while rebuilding it, in dream form, in listeners' minds.