- The Washington Times - Monday, October 6, 2003

Lyle Lovett

My Baby Don’t Tolerate

Lost Highway Records

Lyle Lovett gives genre-obsessed critics fits. The crooked-smiled crooner just can’t sit still, creatively. For every country song in his repertoire, he’s got another that is closer to gospel or folk.

That restless sensibility is once again on display in “My Baby Don’t Tolerate,” the singer’s first batch of new material since 1996’s masterful “The Road to Ensenada.”

The tall Texan hasn’t been resting on his laurels all these years. He saluted his musical influences with 1998’s “Step Inside This House,” appeared in a few films and released both a live album and a compilation of his movie soundtrack contributions. He also took a nasty hit from a bull at his uncle’s ranch near Houston last year but soon returned to the touring grind.

On the new album, Mr. Lovett rumbles through the American heartland, contemplating everything from a strong mug of joe to the Lord above. To Mr. Lovett, keeping it real means writing about the red states without condescension.

From “Wallisville Road” to “The Truck Song,” the album is saturated with our national romance with the open road. Mr. Lovett’s the kind of singer-songwriter who can name his truck without a hiccup of irony.

“Tolerate” plays like a Whitman’s Sampler of Mr. Lovett’s musical moods. The title track is a bluesy burn recalling a man who came home at “half-past-then” and caught heck from his missus. Such wry humor permeates the songwriter’s lyrics, as it has since he broke through in 1986 along with fellow country singers Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakam and Steve Earle.

“In My Own Mind” and “Nothing but a Good Ride” evoke “Ensenada” at its best, with steel guitars anchoring the homespun lyrics. The fissure in Mr. Lovett’s sweet voice has never seemed so vulnerable, so close to cracking in two. “You Were Always There” plays like a relationship dirge, the minor hisses of percussion slow-dancing with the tinkling piano notes.

No, “Tolerate” doesn’t rise to the sublime heights of “Ensenada,” the musician’s finest work, but any album with the sense to wrap with a one-two gospel punch like “Tolerate’s” jubilant “I’m Going to Wait” and “I’m Going to the Place” deserves a spot on anyone’s CD shelf, no matter what genre you prefer.

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