Lyle Lovett's career has matured on a pace with his fan base and venues. Moving from the coffeehouses, honky-tonks and rodeos, Lovett is now more likely, when performing outside his native Klein, Texas, to be found at joints like the Fox Theatre, where he appears this weekend. He'll be drawing extensively from his newest and long-awaited release, My Baby Don't Tolerate, a fine collection of bluesy country originals that will please devotees without stretching their ears or expectations. That said, Lovett has a hard time writing a bad song: These fourteen new tunes plumb the range of his influences while featuring Lovett's smart songwriting and slightly-less-acerbic-than-usual wisecracks, assuring long-time fans and close listeners who hope he hasn't lost all of his edge.
The collection specializes in driving songs: Beginning with the car wreck in up-tempo opener "Cute as a Bug," tracks like "The Truck Song" and the more maudlin "Nothing But a Good Ride" praise the joys of the ride over the destination, while "San Antonio Girl" and "Wallisville Road" remind us how a good drive with a girl by our side serves as the best sort of courting ritual. With subtle bite, "On Saturday Night" chimes in cartoonishly as a Coupe DeVille and pills provide an escape from any of life's bothers. Through all the songs, we rollick across Texas and Nashville as the road soothes psyches bruised by heartache, crappy jobs, crooked politicians and haunted presents. Such movement is the perfect theme for a mid-career collection that suggests the long road remaining for Lovett and his fans to careen down together. When he sings "Things are about to change" on Thursday night, we'll be ready to ride along into the horizon.