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Lyle Lovett Pushes Country Music

There are brilliant writers and performers who work within a genre and produce something that has one foot — or even a toe or two — outside it. Lyle Lovett is one of these rare folks.

Lovett makes a striking impression, even after his tall hair days. He’s also an actor and clearly a highly intelligent individual. He is tricky to define. The first thing that comes to mind is country — and there clearly is a lot of country in there — but he also goes beyond the category. The point is well made at the beginning of his AllMusic profile:

Lyle Lovett was one of the most distinctive and original singer/songwriters to emerge during the ’80s. Though he was initially labeled as a country singer, the tag never quite fit him. Lovett had more in common with ’70s singer/songwriters like Guy Clark, Jesse Winchester, Randy Newman, and Townes Van Zandt, combining a talent for incisive, witty lyrical detail with an eclectic array of music, ranging from country and folk to big-band swing and traditional pop. Lovett’s literate, multi-layered songs stood out among the formulaic Nashville hit singles of the late ’80s as well as the new traditionalists who were beginning to take over country music. Drawing from alternative country and rock fans, Lovett quickly built up a cult following which began to spill over into the mainstream with his second album, 1988’s Pontiac. Following Pontiac, his country audience declined, but his reputation as a songwriter and musician continued to grow, and he sustained a dedicated cult following throughout the ’90s. (Continue Reading…)

Here is Lovett’s elegant and minimalist site. Above is “I’ve Been to Memphis” and below is “She’s Hot to Go.”

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The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.