Anthology Volume One: Cowboy Man (Curb/MCA)

It's ironic that all of Lyle Lovett's albums, except his 1986 debut, sport black-and-white covers - because this witty Texan's brand of country is anything but black-and-white.

Rather, it's the shades-of-gray humor that distinguishes Lyle from the rest of the pack. Take "The Truck Song," one of two new tunes included on this 15-track collection of his '80s work. Old Black's my truck's name / She's held together / Our lane's the right one / When not in England, he sings. Lyle's droll delivery might send the joke sailing by you the first time you hear it, but that just makes it funnier.

There are lots of examples of Lyle's wit throughout Cowboy Man. Of course, with that title there must also be plenty of cowboy tales, including the Bob Wills-flavored title cut, the rodeo tale "Farther Down The Line" and the surreal commentary on the relationship between man and horse, "If I Had A Boat." He may have traveled afield musically in recent years, but Cowboy Man is a wholehearted reaffirmation of its creator's love of country's sound, symbols and traditions.

- Nick Krewen

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