If you think Lyle Lovett is just a country musician, you’re missing out on so much. He’s a dryly witty lyricist and composer; a talented guitarist and singer; his songs have been featured in movie scores from “Toy Story” to “The Crying Game”; and he leads a fantastic big band, which Lyle calls his Large Band. Together their music combines country, big band/swing, jazz, blues, gospel and bluegrass. Lyle is a generous bandleader, giving ample time to his musicians to show their prodigious singing and playing skills on instruments from slide guitar to trombone to fiddle to cello. (Yes, cello—his longtime cellist John Hagen brings a beautiful richness to the Large Band’s sound and his solos are elegant and warm—and squeaky and wild when necessary.) Lyle’s backup singer Francine Reed has a big, bold, sexy alto voice and a devoted following of her own; she returns to Seattle for another stint as Teatro Zinzanni‘s resident chanteuse this winter.
I first saw Lyle and his Large Band in concert in 1987, and most recently saw them last weekend. Their professionalism, evident pleasure in performing, and ability to produce a tight and exciting 2-1/2-hour show after all these years together made them just as thrilling to watch this week as they were when I first enjoyed them all those years ago. The video above shows Lyle and his band displaying all the amazing influences they draw from in one terrific showstopping song. Don’t stop there—check out his albums (especially “Joshua Judges Ruth,” “The Road to Ensenada,” “Lyle Lovett and His Large Band” and “Pontiac“) and you’ll see what I mean.