Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lovett and Fellow Songwriters Offer Musical Treat of the Year; Four Old Pros Pluck Gems from Their Catalogs of Compositions

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lovett and Fellow Songwriters Offer Musical Treat of the Year; Four Old Pros Pluck Gems from Their Catalogs of Compositions

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF VRABEL

Guy Clark, following Lyle Lovett's crackling performance of L.A. County on Sunday night at the Florida Theatre, tilted his guitar, cocked his head and offered a quick critique more telling and spot-on than any rock critic ever could: "That's just real good, Lyle."

Well, there you go. Starring front-porch craftsmen Lovett, Clark, John Hiatt and Joe Ely, the all-acoustic Songwriters' Tour (a semi-regular institution since 1991) unfolds in a round-table fashion -- it's like the McLaughlin Group, with far less barking -- with each singer cherry-picking something from his extensive catalog more or less on the fly. "No rules, no set list, no nothing," Clark said early on.

And indeed, the Songwriters' Tour was maybe the most rewarding treat to hit Jacksonville this year that wasn't afiiliated with the NFL. Since the time for proving anything has passed for these guys, what they do amounts to a simple stroll through four generous and consistently satistfying songbooks.

The ever-cockeyed Lovett revels in his work with his Large Band, one of the most dependable live outfits in the country/rock genre (or any other). But given the chance to let his characters walk the stage, his songs tend to come off clearer and more unfairly effortless than they do even with his acclaimed band.

He turned Step Inside This House (which he introduced as the first song ever written by Clark) into a sad-eyed but hopeful lament, painted a breathtakingly simple self-portrait throughout In My Own Mind and worked My Baby Don't Tolerate into a bluesy romp that came complete with a revved-up Hiatt solo. And not much more can be said about If I Had A Boat other than it's shimmering, slyly inspiring perfection. (Ever the gracious host, Lovett even made time to politely grump about his Houston Texans).

The elder statesman of the bunch (and a bit more so, because it was his 65th birthday, which was commemorated by an early round of Happy Birthday), Clark unspooled his particular brand of half-spoken country, aged like whiskey and with about as much kick. …

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