Lyle Lovett has produced his first new music in 10 years with the release of 12th of June – a genre-fusion of country, jazz, blues and folk as he mixes originals with cover interpretations.
His last original album was 2012’s Release Me which featured a collaboration with several big-name artists.
It is not that Lyle has been idle for a decade. When not on the road, the 64-year-old Texan singer-song/writing legend found time to become a father for the first time, with twins – a boy and a girl – born in 2017.
As might be expected, the doting dad loses no time in referencing them in his work, the title track of the new album includes a memorable lyric: To these beautiful two children/and to my sweet and tender wife/I will love you three forever/though I fly beyond this life
Like most artists, Lovett was mainly housebound during the Coronavirus lockdown. “We didn’t want to risk having any outside help – for our safety and for the safety of anyone who’d help us – so it ended up being just me, my wife, and our kids, which was a wonderful family experience. I always thought I wanted to be a dad, but I had no idea just how much I would enjoy it.”
But now he is back doing what has been his stock ‘n trade for the good part of 40 years. He is touring with an acoustic group – suitably dubbed “Lyle Lovett and his Acoustic Group” - until late May. And in Tucson, Arizona, on June 15, he kicks off shows titled “An Evening with Lyle Lovett and His Large Band”. It will wrap on August 26 in Austin, Texas, and on select dates he will share the spotlight with Chris Isaak.
“I did these livestreams during the pandemic, and people were appreciative. But the most consistent comment was ‘Can’t wait ‘til we can see you live again,’ “ he told People.
12th of June was produced by Lovett and Chuck Ainlay and the 11 tracks include covers of standards by Nat King Cole and Dave Frishberg, with the opener being a jazz-infused instrumental track “Cooking at the Continental” by Horace Silver.
But it is the title track - a Lovett original which has been released as a single - which really stamps his musical mark on this latest creation. The video, also released prior to the album, sees Lyle mixing it with both his band and big-name session musicians like Sam Bush on mandolin.
The beautiful acoustic-driven song reflects on his multi-generational homestead in East Texas, the family-orientated life he now enjoys there, and even his own mortality. There is particular reference to “the branch,” a creek which runs nearby and is close to a family cemetery. By the branch at San Jacinto/When they lay me in my tomb/Know of all the days I loved
Another original single from the new album, “Pants Is Overrated” is less acoustic, more “large band” brassy from his early-90’s days. This song too was inspired by his father-status. He told People how the song began: “I started singing one day as I was trying to convince my then two-year-olds to put clothes on. And I just thought to myself, they probably have it right.”
The piano and sax-fuelled sound goes up a notch when Lyle enters the blues/jazz stratosphere of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald with “Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good to You” and off the back comes Frishberg’s much covered 1960’s standard “Peel Me A Grape.”
The Country sound returns on the soothing “Her Loving Man,” when the piano is accompanied by the steel guitar, and on “The Mocking Ones,” which has a soft, moody fiddle befitting its moody message: No we never did see eye to eye/Still we loved each other God knows why
And the album closes with the very melodic “On A Winter’s Morning” which gets some very refreshing musical treatment from the wide range of top-class musicians who worked on this project, dating back to 2019.
“I’m really pleased with these recordings,” Lovett told American Songwriter. “I’m always in awe of the people that I get to work with. Over the course of my career, I’ve gotten to work with such amazing musicians and, every time, it’s just inspiring to be around them.
“Whenever you’re in the room with great players who are focusing their talents on one of your songs, it’s a really uplifting feeling. ‘Sublime’ is a great word for it.”
And “sublime” is a great word for what Lyle and his Large Band have produced.
Editor Crossroads – Americana Music Appreciation