Monday, March 19, 2012


Lovett is never especially prolific, this being his first release since 2009, but he is consistent.  His discs are always of the highest quality, especially the musicianship, with the cuts usually featuring the members of his crack Large Band.  Check and check on those points for Release Me.  What's a bit different is the large amount of covers on the disc, 12 of 14.  Lovett explains that he hasn't dried up, he just didn't particularly care too much for many of the songs he'd written recently, and wanted this disc to be top-drawer.

One reason is that he's left the only record company he'd called home in his 25-year career, Curb.  The album title was chosen for that very reason (although he does cover the country classic of the same name), as he moves into the brave new world of self-control.  Sensing he needed a bit of a hit, he went for a batch of his favourites, mostly songs he's covered in concert over his career.

Of  course, Lovett doesn't just cover songs, he makes them his own.  Chuck Berry's Brown-Eyed Handsome Man is a chestnut and cornerstone track, but somehow it becomes a whole new tune here, slowed down and riding on loping bass line.  Lovett sings it like a gunfighter ballad.  Over his career he's had a great way with classic blues, and here the Large Band, anchored by the brilliant Matt Rollings on piano, do a crossed-up barrelhouse boogie/Texas Swing take on Keep It Clean, the 1930's track associated with Charley Jordan.

There are more vocal guests than normal on a Lovett disc, but true to form, it's for quality reasons, not star power.  Sure, k.d. lang's a big name, and that's her on Release Me, but Kat Edmonson gets the nod on the shopworn Baby It's Cold Outside, and manages to make this too-familiar number stand out from the pack.  Old hands and fan favourites Sweet Pea Atkinson and Harry Bowens show up for rich, soulful backing on Jesse Winchester's Isn't That So, and Sarah Watkins of Nickel Creek provides perfect harmony for the heartbreaking Dress Of Laces. 

Watkins is also on board for on the originals, the beautiful Night's Lullaby.  Maybe Lovett felt there was no way he could match this track with his own pen, it's such a marvelous and touching number to a child, and ultimately a love song for the family.  It's as touching a number as Lovett's ever done. 

The disc is a bit of a roller-coaster, as we move from tragedy to comedy to spiritual, but Lovett is one artist who can handle it all.  It takes a brave man to end an album with a Methodist hymn from the pen of Martin Luther himself, especially coming off the heals of a smoking version of Townes Van Zandt's White Freightliner Blues.  Lovett may be the only artist who could do it.

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