Review: Lovett coasts but still charms on new CD

STEVEN WINE Associated Press Published:

Lyle Lovett, "Release Me" (Curb/Universal)

On "Release Me," Lyle Lovett makes like the Brown Eyed Handsome Man and touches all the bases. There's gospel-tinged R&B ("Isn't That So"), jump blues ("Keep It Clean"), a murder ballad ("Dress of Laces"), a classic duet ("Baby, It's Cold Outside"), a Christmas novelty number ("The Girl With the Holiday Smile") and a Chuck Berry cover (the aforementioned "Brown Eyed Handsome Man"). All are very good.

There's also an instrumental hoedown ("Garfield's Blackberry Blossom"), a weepy country duet ("Release Me"), a trucking song ("White Freightliner Blues"), bedtime music ("Night's Lullaby") and a closing church hymn ("Keep Us Steadfast"). Those tunes are fair to middling.

This is Lovett's final album for Curb/Universal, his label since he started making records, which may explain why he seems to be coasting a bit. That was also the case during a recent live performance, when he spent more time talking than singing. But there's no doubting Lovett remains a man of many muses.

CHECK THIS OUT: For more than half a century, baseball fans have grumbled about Berry's lyric, making the count two-three with the Brown Eyed Handsome Man at bat. Did Chuck goof, or was he saying blacks had three strikes against them in the 1950s? Lovett changes the count to three-two -- and gives Henry Aaron a shout-out.