Release Me by Lyle Lovett

If Lyle’s disinclination toward mainstream country-star status wasn’t evident from his urbane, tailored suits and tousled, upside-down-cake hairdo, his 25-year recorded output clearly shows that the Texas-bred stylist can’t be lassoed into a single category. When he feels a country song coming on, though, he delivers. Singing the title track with k.d. lang—easily his unconventional equal—Lyle presents the ’60s-era classic in brisk, honky-tonk fashion, taking refreshing liberties with its chorus melody and making breaking up sound easy to do. Elsewhere, he rides horses of a different hue. 

Closing his long run with Curb Records, Lyle cleans out his sizeable influence closet with offerings ranging from 1920s blues and horn-fueled R&B to a wholly original, rural-sounding take on Chuck Berry’s chugging “Brown Eyed Handsome Man.” This, his most far-ranging covers set to date (augmented by a pair of emotionally contrasting originals, one culled from his 2011 holiday EP), won’t take longtime fans by surprise: Release Me provides a clear picture of Lovett’s stylistic bedrock, and reminds that he’s stood steadfast upon it all along.

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