One of America’s great singer-songwriters marks the end of an era

Twenty-six years into his recording career, Lyle Lovett is still amused by the attempts to categorize his music. “Even now, people who don’t really listen to country music still think of me as country, and people who listen to country don’t,” he says. “It’s an odd place to be.” Odd perhaps, but Lovett can thank his idiosyncratic nature for providing him with a singular edge that has allowed him to appeal to a broad cross-section of fans. Armed with perception, erudite lyrics and a sound that seamlessly integrated blues, swing, folk, classic singer-songwriter balladry and, yes, country, Lovett rocketed to fame in the late ’80s as a major new talent. Since then he has consistently broken boundaries, expanding and refining his distinctive approach.

Release Me, Lovett’s newest, is a milestone: his final album for Curb Records, the label that has been his home since 1986. If the title and cover art—Lovett bound in ropes—suggest a certain glee in moving on, the truth is more nuanced. “I’ve had a great relationship with the record company and feel proud of being with them for all these years,” says the Texas-born singer, songwriter and actor, 54. “But I’m excited about what might be next.” Filled with new songs, decades-old originals, covers (from Chuck Berry to Townes Van Zandt) and appearances from friends like singer k.d. lang and drummer Russ Kunkel, Lovett’s Curb swan song serves as a summation of where he’s been and an indication of where’s he headed. “I wanted to wrap up this part of my career creatively,” he says. “This record was to be as inclusive as possible of the people I’ve worked with and the people I love.” Lovett took time to talk with us about the new record, his storied career and his future as an independent artist.

By Jeff Tamarkin

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