100 Best Albums of the Eighties

91

Lyle Lovett, 'Lyle Lovett'

"This is definitely an album of the Eighties," says Lyle Lovett, "because it took almost the whole of the Eighties to do it." The line is typical of the dry wit that Lovett employs in his offbeat country and blues songs — and also accurate. Some of the songs on Lyle Lovett were written as early as 1979. In 1984, he spent his life savings as well as a loan from his parents to record eighteen demos; ten of these were finally remixed and released in 1986.

The wait paid off. Lyle Lovett — an assured, refined collection of tunes about rocky romances, dubious weddings and sturdy old porches — heralded the arrival of a major songwriter who brought absurdity and wit to a field that was normally earnest and predictable.

In 1984, Lovett, a Texas singer-songwriter with a degree in journalism, hooked up with the J. David Sloan band at a music festival in Luxembourg. He returned with the members of the band to their native Arizona, and one day in June he cut four songs at Chaton Recordings, in Scottsdale. Lovett then drove to Nashville, looking for a publishing deal, and wound up recording fourteen more demos that August.

He sent the tape around to record companies. They liked the material but wanted him to re-record it, which he refused to do. Finally, the tape found its way to singer-songwriter Guy Clark, who recommended him to Tony Brown at MCA. "When I first heard the demos," says Brown, "I thought, 'How could this tape have been around for more than a week without somebody putting it out?' This guy was so developed, so focused."

Aside from some remixing and minor overdubbing, the tapes were virtually released as is. Brown helped Lovett select ten songs (the rest have appeared on subsequent albums) with an ear to country radio. Four made the C&W Top Twenty.

"I probably would have chosen fewer country songs and weighted it more toward the blues-oriented stuff," Lovett says today. "But it ended up being more representative of my songwriting." And as a homespun sampler of a rookie off the street, it has few peers.

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