Doncha Just Lovett: Hats Off To Lyle

By Jean Metcalfe

"You can have my girl, but don't touch my hat," warns Lyle Lovett in the opening cut of his new Curb/MCA album, The Road to Ensenada. The hat, you see, has stuck with him through many a woman — sort of his "old dogs and children and watermelon wine."

And while Lovett's hair and celebrity marriage have received more publicity than his music and his hat, the album focuses a good bit on the latter. In the cover picture for The Road to Ensenada, Lovett holds a white J.B. Stetson over his heart, while the top edge of the album cover slices just between his eyebrows and eyelids. The only hair in the photograph is a smidgeon of sideburn and a five o'clock shadow. Cool.

Lyle Lovett

But Lovett didn't let his hat go to his head at the Macauley Theatre on the evening of July 17. The good-guy Stetson did, however, get a dramatic turn in the spotlight before its lanky owner removed it from the stage at the end of his first encore.

Lovett's two-night stand at the Macauley (he had performed there the previous evening) kicked off his current tour in support of Ensenada, and the gifted songwriter hit 'em with the new stuff straightaway. To the album's credit, the material handily held the audience's attention, and before evening's end we had been treated to a dozen of the album's thirteen cuts.

Opening with the rueful "Promises," Lovett abruptly shifted to the livelier "Don't Touch My Hat," then a nice fiddle intro brought out one-eyed "Fiona" . . . and the quirkiness of the man at center stage.

With "Who Loves You Better," Lovett and his pedal steel player virtually wrapped the Macauley Theatre in one giant sob. Buy the album if only for this cut.

"That's Right (You're Not From Texas)" and "Her First Mistake" (with the gloomy admission "I just keep on running faster, chasing the happily I am ever after") apparently made the audience more comfortable. But it was "If I Had a Boat" in the tenth slot that took the evening to the next level, eliciting applause at the first notes. Then we got to sing along on the chorus of "Give Back My Heart" — great fun if you'd already practiced saying "chipkicker-redneck woman."

Happily, the long, tall Texan included "Long Tall Texan" as one of the couple or so songs he didn't write. Another was "Sleepwalking Again Last Night (?)," written by one of his favorite songwriters, Willis Alan Ramsey. (A sample lyric: "I sure don't remember nothing about that blown-up rubber doll.")

Reaching back into previous albums, Lovett performed old favorites "She's No Lady" and "Church," and they were greeted warmly.

Despite the absence of Lovett's Large Band, the evening was exceedingly successful. There was that one bit of unpleasantness when some jerk grew impatient for Lovett to take the stage and yelled out "Any Day Now." The audience responded with a well-deserved "SHHHHHHHH."

For those of you who haven't heard, Lovett did perform "Nobody Knows Me." Not only did we enjoy it, we breathed easier knowing that Jeff Puckett wouldn't have to make good on his promise to "hate him forever" if he didn't.

Hats off to Lyle Lovett and his eight talented musicians, as well as to the Bank One Lonesome Pine Special people who brought them to Louisville.