Lyle Lovett never makes a bad album, and his voice is unmistakeable, so it’s extraordinary how very different one album can sound from another. After his 2007 album that was “large” in every respect – including the title – Natural Forces is a gentler, lyric-heavy offering that should set the tone for Lovett’s solo acoustic tour of Europe this year with John Hiatt.
The album won’t excite those who love Lovett belting out the country swing – the two songs in that style are just a little too quirky and pointless – but for those who love their music a little more introspective, as in his 1998 double album of covers Step Inside This House, this is an album with much to offer.
The title song that opens the album is the standout, spanning a century and crisscrossing a continent, setting the scene for the characters that follow who are seeking comfort and companionship, leaving and returning, in a changing world.
Lovett penned less than half the album, and borrowed songs include the very beautiful “Sun and Moon and Stars”, a reflection on lost friends written by Vince Bell and previously recorded by Nanci Griffith. “Loretta” is the latest Townes Van Zandt song to get the Lovett treatment.
Lovett and his college buddy Robert Earl Keen collaborated on “It’s Rock and Roll”, debating the pros and cons of a hectic life on the road and in the spotlight.
One of the less successful songs, “Pantry” – a somewhat strange exhortation to a girlfriend not to eat while the singer is away – doesn’t particularly improve by being repeated at the end in acoustic form.
Everyone will find something to love on this album. Everyone will also probably find something that irritates greatly.