Anthology Volume One: Cowboy Man

Anthology Volume One: Cowboy Man

A concise overview of three concise Lyle Lovett records—his first three, all recorded and released between 1986 and 1989—Anthology Volume One shows Lovett at the ground floor of his career. At the time these songs were written, Lovett’s songwriting was compact and clever and extraordinarily gentle without being soft. In “Cowboy Man,” “Why I Don’t Know," and “Give Back My Heart,” he showed he'd absorbed the lessons of swing, blues, and gospel without resorting to aping them. When traces of the old traditions emerge here, they come out in the form of Lovett’s distinctive personality. When he was cutting his teeth, Texas was an incredibly competitive place for songwriters. They treated the craft like carpentry; if you couldn’t build a beautiful, sturdy house, nobody would take notice. Thankfully for Lovett, he studied well. The testimony is a sequence of songs—“God Will,” “Which Way Does That Old Pony Run,” “If You Were to Wake Up”—that resemble simple but exquisitely crafted buildings, each with windows that never fail to let in light even on the coldest days.

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