Lyle Lovett – Joshua Judges Ruth
I like to think about the idea of perfect albums. The idea that, somewhere along the journey of a career, it all comes together for a talented artist, and they produce that one genuinely perfect album.
They’re understandably very few and far between. The lack of one can be a point of particular exasperation for those of us who really love a particular musician. Why did they add that ONE song! It would have been so good w/out that! Like “Castanets” on Alejandro Escovedo’s otherwise brilliant “A Man Under The Influence.” Or “Honey Now” on Gillian Welch’s mostly bittersweetly beautiful sophomore release. Or that one song on almost every Dylan album.
I choose these as examples because Lyle Lovett’s oeuvre travels in ostensibly similar territory as the artists I’ve already mentioned, tho Lovett is probably cleverer, smarter, weirder, and funnier than all three combined. He’s certainly the best singer of the three, which may not be a commonly-held opinion, but it’s true.
All of which leads me to the point that Joshua Judges Ruth is Lyle Lovett’s perfect album. This is a song-by-song juggernaut of singer-songwriter mastery; and one that somehow manages to capture everything Lovett does so well. It is rootsy, and bluesy, and folky, and jazzy, and funky, and soulful, and gospel-ish, and it’s brilliantly performed, and it’s heroically sung, and it’s funny and heartbreaking and wise, and as with so many of Lovett’s great creations, the lyrics are so complicatedly simple in the most genius of ways—this is soulfully-sung American haiku in action.
Congratulations Mr. Lovett. You have a perfect album. You have joined the gods.
Recommended track to start with: Baltimore. Just a devastating song.