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May 8, 2014 | 12:00 a.m. CST
With his dry, gentle delivery and multitude of talents, Lyle Lovett has proved himself to be one of country music’s most enduring stars. Although he would brush off the term, Lovett can be considered a true journeyman, migrating from Nashville to Hollywood with his personality firmly intact.
Where: Jesse Auditorium
When: 7 p.m., May 13
Rising up the industry ranks in the ’80s when the genre was in a commercial lull, Lovett emerged as a versatile songwriter and performer. Neither as sharp-tongued as his country cowboy predecessors nor as introspective as the alternative scene that would later emerge, Lovett’s mark as an artist is his modest songwriting style. Rueful tones define his music as stripped and folk-inflected. But so does the deep South. He toes the line between country and rock and has created a distinct and considerable collection of material.
Lovett has maintained a consistent commercial output and touring schedule for nearly 30 years. “I would definitely say he’s one of the most preeminent singer-songwriters working in country music today,” says Nathan Anderson, KBIA assistant director and Missouri Concert Series organizer. “We were very lucky in that he was touring in the area, and we managed to get him to Columbia for the first time since 2007.” Although Lovett hasn’t released an album since early 2012’s Release Me, he digs through his rich catalog to keep fans on their toes.
In addition to touring and songwriting, Lovett has also dabbled in Hollywood. He acted in legendary director Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, played a singing attendant in an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing on stage and was even briefly married to film star Julia Roberts. However, it’s his music that left an impression.
Often stark, Lovett’s portraits of everyday misfits reveal a critical eye that cuts through much of country’s mainstream lyrics. He prefers stripped-down performances of skeletal acoustic guitar. This led to his greatest artistic successes on Joshua Judges Ruth (1992) and I Love Everybody (1994).
For the upcoming Columbia concert May 13, Lovett will bring his Acoustic Group, a traveling unit that expands his initial recordings. But no matter the assemblage of musicians or diverse tunes chosen on a whim, Lovett’s Columbia fans are poised for an exciting evening.