Artists are regularly heaped with praise as great singers, songwriters, musicians or even producers—but let’s not forget the importance of being a great bandleader. Assembling just the right set of musicians and whipping them into a top-flight unit is a rare and special skill, and it’s one that Lyle Lovett demonstrates to great effect on Natural Forces.
Like 1998’s Step Inside This House, it’s mostly a showcase for the songs of Lyle’s fellow Texas songwriters (he contributes five originals). What could be an overly limiting concept in the hands of someone else, here comes off as a cogent statement about the fullness and diversity of Texas music, in particular the strands of shared heritage that bind country music to blues and jazz. Lyle is, as ever, adept at delivering the songs with a wry wit in his voice, but the range and skill of his renowned backup troupe, His Large Band, keep Natural Forces jumping from start to finish.