Lyle Lovett was the first country musician I ever enjoyed. And that came mostly from his Large Band recordings. Lovett, while clearly of the country ilk, is a different kind of country—perhaps it’s because his country comes from Texas. He is not afraid to bend genres and sing about whatever is on his mind (with a great, unique voice that eschews country flavors.
For this tiny desk it is just Lyle and a fiddle by Luke Bulla.
One of the things I’ve always liked about Lyle is his sense of humor. He doesn’t write funny songs, but some of his songs are funny. And he himself is very funny–very deadpan–which he demonstrates amply here.
And, according to the blurb, he’s also rather humble
Lovett not only showed up at NPR Music’s offices without an entourage, but also booked his Tiny Desk Concert himself, emailing us out of the blue to express his interest. (Our reply: “We would only agree to have you perform a Tiny Desk Concert if it’s under any conceivable circumstance.”)
So it’s appropriate that Lovett would open this performance at the NPR Music offices by performing “Cowboy Man,” the first track on his 1986 debut: He may be a music-industry veteran, but in many ways, he’s starting over. With a fresh-faced accompanist in fiddler and backup singer Luke Bulla, Lovett gives a loose, engaging performance that feels like both an introduction and a victory lap. He follows “Cowboy Man” with two songs from 1989’s Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, so this is no mere promotional appearance.
He’s charming right up front. After the “Cowboy Man,” which sounds great, he looks up and laughs, “thank you very much,” with a sense of wonder. He starts right into the second song and then stops and stop again and then says “I just about got it.” He plays the melody for a few bars and the violin comes in and they play a few bars together and then, I gather, Lyle screwed up because he kind of smiles over at Luke and then stops playing and says “you sure you want to play that?”
Everyone laughs, some tension is broken. And he looks up at everyone.
“This is…it’s kinda weird, right?” Someone shouts out “Good weird!” He laughs, “Good for sure, no question.”
Then he picks up a CD off the desk and says, “Just one of those chance meetings.” He holds up the CD, “Iris Dement, she was just right here.” To much laughter. Stephen, who booked the show shouts, “We’ve got all those inventoried, so don’t even think about it.” Which cracks everyone up.
Then he tells a story about meeting Iris’ daughter He asks them is they know about the Cayamo Folk Cruises. No one replies so he says “It’s a popu….it’s not that popular.” He says it is a festival on the water (it must have been one of the first music cruises). He describes it and says its fun a deal. And then stops and says “I don’t know why we’re talking about it.” Then they remind him about Iris Dement’s daughter.
His story about her is very funny, told in a great deadpan way: I saw this cool chick, about ten years old, leaning against the elevator. Wearing skinny pants and a hat. She looked at me in that skeptical way, and I said, so you in a band? She rolled her eyes, gave me a sideways look. She said, No. So I said, Well, you oughta be. She said, My mom’s in a band. Who’s your mom? She said Iris, just like that. She was cool.
Finally starts playing “If You Were To Wake Up” again and jokes, “Pretend like this is going well.” It is, the song is very pretty with gorgeous violin.
The final song is “Good Intentions” He looks at Luke and says. “Play it just…do it however you want.” Lyle starts the song, “It’s a sunny day in Sunny…” and he stops and looks at Luke and says “Don’t mess me up anymore, alright?” To more laughter. It’s one of his great songs–jazzy and with swell lyrics. There’s even a plucked violin solo.
I have loved Lyle and his Large Band, but I also like him in this small duet as well.
[READ: January 21, 2015] “Youngthing”
Boy I hated this story.
It is the story of a young Somali thug (nicknamed Youngthing) who has been conscripted into a the Shabaab-led insurgency.
He is sent on a mission for the insurgents. He is meant to secure (steal) a house for the group.
He doesn’t pay attention, winds up going to wrong place and inadvertently “captures” the wrong house.
There is an innocent old man living there. We see the story from the man’s point of view we see for half of the story; we see it from Youngthing’s point of view for the other half). The old man doesn’t realize the trouble he is in right away. He even manages to convinces Youngthing that everything will be okay.
But of course everything isn’t okay and, and stories like this tend to be, everybody dies.
I would have claimed this was a sensationalist story without a lot of redemption, except that I assume this kind of thing happens all the time, which makes it all the more horrifying. And in that respect the story was “good.” It was real and showed the real emotional attitudes of all the persons involved.
But overall it just seemed like from the first sentence you knew what was going to happen and every word just led you one step closer to the inevitable, unhappy conclusion.
I had enjoyed the other story by Farah that I’d read, but I will tread lightly with future stories.