“Yes, it’s true, I am a one-man hair band,” confesses the Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett, his tongue firmly in cheek. “That’s what I’m all about. And now that my hair is shorter, I don’t know why people should care about me. I mean, what’s left of me, really?”
Though Lovett did get a lot of attention for his earlier Eraserhead-meets-Bonanza coiffure, the thirty-four-year-old native of Klein, Texas, has in truth long since established himself as a major genre-straddling talent. As Lovett’s hair has gotten smaller, his following has gotten ever larger, and that trend seems likely to continue with the release of his impressive fourth album, Joshua Judges Ruth.
The title of the new album comes from three consecutive books of the old testament and reflects with typically sly wit one of Lovett’s most beloved themes, the complicated and uneasy relationships between men and women. Joshua Judges Ruth is an album that sees Lovett effortlessly incorporate elements of folk, country, jazz, rock and even gospel into a potent sound that is very much his own. Asked to distinguish the new album from past efforts, Lovett avoids any hype. “There are more songs,” he says. “And they’re longer.”
Like Lovett, the Cowboy Junkies – who also recently released a fine fourth album, Black Eyed Man – have carved out their own delicate yet rootsy musical territory. “It’s just our personalities,” says Margo Timmins, the group’s lead singer, whose sultry and subtle soprano provides the four-piece Canadian band with much of its slow-burning power. “We always do what feels most comfortable for us.”
The group first connected with the public in 1988 with its haunting effort The Trinity Session, which featured a version of “Sweet Jane” so impressive that even Lou Reed said nice things about it.
On the new album, Michael Timmins – Margo’s guitarist brother – makes great strides as a songwriter on excellent tracks like “If You Were the Woman and I was the Man,” which Margo sings with John Prine, with whom the Junkies are currently coheadlining on tour.
“Things are great now because we feel like we’ve been around long enough to have our own history,” says Margo. “This time around we’re not following up anything. We’re just giving people the latest Cowboy Junkies album.”
Though both Lovett and Timmins display endless amounts of style and taste, musically speaking, both claim to be anything but clotheshorses. “My sense of fashion is guided almost entirely by my sense of embarrassment,” says Lovett. “I dabbled briefly in country clothing because I felt obligated to for professional reasons. But I never did feel particularly comfortable with it. I’m just not a big-hat kind of guy. I want to wear something that makes me look like a generic man who might, say, have a job.”
One recent job for Lovett was his screen debut in Robert Altman’s upcoming Hollywood satire ‘The Player,’ in which Lovett appears along with Tim Robbins, Greta Scacchi and a cast of majors like Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis, who appear briefly in the film as themselves. “Everyone else in the movie – all the real guys – got to wear clothes by Alexander Julian,” says Lovett. “My stuff came from Nordstrom.” Lovett does say that his personal wardrobe got a boost from doing this photo shoot, “I got to keep some of the clothing,” he reports happily. “So now I have a little style, if only in my clothes.”
“I hate to shop,” says Timmins, who identifies this fact as the source of her personal fashion difficulties. “I tend to wear the same thing until it literally falls off, and someone has to tell me, ‘Excuse me, Margo, I think we have a little problem here.'”
Still, getting duded up was not a total bust for our two reluctant fashion plates. “We had to share one dressing room,” says Lovett. “And at one point, I burst the room without knocking, and I got to see Margo in her underwear.”