Monday, February 8, 2010

A Lovett Affair

Alright! Alright! I admit it. I have a secret love - so secret, in fact, that he doesn't even know he's my secret love. I'm stealthy like that.

He's an older gentleman with enough genuine Texas cowboy in him to make me wanna' giddy up. He's smart and charming. He waxes poetic and strums a mean guitar. He makes me swoon and cry and laugh, sometimes all in the same song. Even better, he has a really big ... coif.

That's right. I Lovett him. Lyle, that is.

I have eclectic taste in music, and I truly enjoy all genres. But few musicians speak to my soul like Lovett. A photographer friend introduced me to Lovett's music in 1991, when I was a lowly newsroom intern. I knew instantly I would love him forever.

See, friends, when you love Lyle Lovett, you truly, wholly love him. You unapologetically roll down your windows on summer evening drives, inhaling honeysuckle as he serenades you with songs of love gone wrong ("L.A. County") or love so right ("South Texas Girl") or love somewhere in between ("Nobody Knows Me"). You genuinely laugh out loud when he sings the whimsical "Keep it in Your Pantry" or "She's No Lady." You feel inexplicably hopeful when he sings, "I Will Rise Up/Ain't No More Cane" and inexplicably hopeless when he croons the haunting "Pontiac." And when he sings "If I Had a Boat", you actually wish you had a pony to ride upon a boat. You do!

How do you define Lovett's music? He's country, but not country. He intertwines his Texas twang (say that three times fast!) with jazz and blues, more than a touch of gospel and some down-home folksiness. He's like a pizza with the works; all the ingredients come together in such a deliciously rich and satisfying way that you think, "Hot damn! Pineapple does taste good on pizza!"

I had the honor of hearing Lovett live last year. When his distinctive sound reverberated through a beautiful Nashville symphony hall, I was sorely tempted to kick off my shoes and walk barefoot down the aisle to him. Oh, yes, Julia Roberts, I get it. I so get it.

Fortunately, I remembered that (a). I was already married and (b). snooty symphony hall crowds tend to frown on groupie wanna-bes.

What I really wanted to do, though, was ask Mr. Lovett to join me after the show for coffee and flapjacks. For one thing, flapjacks are delicious. But as a writer, I would relish the opportunity to pick Lovett's brain (assuming one can get to it beneath all that hair) about his creative process.

For he is not only a talented artist, but a true poet. He has an astounding collection of original songs, and whether they are blithe or evocative, they're brilliantly crafted.

I imagine he loses himself when he writes, and that the songs beckon him as much as he beckons them. I bet the stories come to him like the morning Texas sun filtering through thin curtains, softly at first, then expanding and brightening, until the room is warm with light.

Yeah. I told ya'. I love him (but not in the creepy, stalker-like way I love Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale).

So why am I sharing my secret love? Because a Lyle Lovett song is stalking me.

Lately, I can't escape his cover of Townes Van Zandt's "If I Needed You."

I turned on the car radio a few days ago and there it was - on a country station that I don't tune into regularly. The next day, it was the first song that popped up on a random iPod shuffle. And when flipping through channels Sunday, I stumbled upon the very scene when (ex-Mrs. Lovett) Julia Roberts sings "If I Needed You" in the movie, Stepmom.

If you're keeping up, that's three times I heard the song in one weekend. Coincidence? Perhaps, but it's enough to make me pay attention.

It's actually one of the rare songs Lovett sings that he did not write, but Lovett's version is heartwarming and haunting. Apparently, it's haunting me.

Since this song is following me around, I figure it wants to be shared; it has something to say. Turns out, the song makes me do a little soul-searching, and it brings me some peace in an unsettled time. Lovett's music has a way of doing that.

So is there an artist who speaks to your soul? Have you ever been haunted by a song? What musician would you invite for a night of coffee, conversation and flapjacks?

Please share.

And remember to thank the stars above for the poets and the songwriters, for the musicians and the storytellers, for the creative cowboys like Lyle Lovett.

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