Deep in the Heart of Texas

Lyle Lovett - Chicago Theatre

October 24, 1998

First Appeared in The Music Box, December 1998, Volume 5, #12

Written by John Metzger


Lyle Lovett is more than just a singer or a songwriter. He's also a storyteller. He knows how to draw his audience into his songs by using his soft-spoken voice to introduce a selection offering up a joke and then a few strums of his acoustic guitar. Gradually, his band joins him as if painting the edges of the song's portrait. As Lovett begins to sing, his voice crackles with emotion. By then, it's too late you're hooked on the fully formed images that capture the heart of Texas.

That's exactly what happened repeatedly at Lovett's appearance at the Chicago Theatre on October 24. Though instead of focusing on his own material, Lovett's selections dug deep into his latest release Step Inside This House a collection of music by his favorite Texas singer/songwriters, which include Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Eric Taylor, and Walter Hyatt.

Lovett and his regular touring band worked pure magic, breathing their own lives into each song that they performed. On Taylor's Memphis Midnight/Memphis Morning, Lovett's vocals were filled with the empty loneliness of life on the road as his band conjured a melancholy aura suspended between cello and guitar. Hyatt's Teach Me About Love was a raging excursion into western swing and was one of the few up-tempo moments of the evening.

The concert also featured some of Lovett's own material, which not surprisingly held up quite well along side the songs of his mentors. In particular, Lovett pulled off a captivating rendition of If I Had a Boat, which brought cheers from the audience as Tonto left the Lone Ranger and rode off on his own.

The highlight of the show was the complete Texas Trilogy, originally written by Steven Fromholz. The song tells the tale of a small Texas town that gets even smaller after a railroad line is built to bypass it. Once again, Lovett's band captured the mood of the song perfectly from the summer heat and open expanse of the Texas countryside to the frantic pace of the newly built rail line.

This was indeed a remarkable two-hour performance. Lovett and his band made the songs their own, while paying a reverent tribute to their song writing heroes. Meanwhile, the appreciative audience was treated to a stunning introduction to some of the finest songwriters Texas has to offer. Who could ask for anything more?

Step Inside This House is available from Barnes & Noble.
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Copyright 1998 The Music Box