The most interesting thing about Houston's own Lyle Lovett is the way he's never quite what people assume he is. Even when people see past the surface of his laconic, gentlemanly demeanor, they seem to get it wrong. The Crying Game notwithstanding, the disturbing thing about his cover of Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" doesn't lie in gender-bending or homosexual panic: It's the almost subliminal way the lyric goes from tearful female masochism to leering male sadism without changing a single word, just because of the gender of the singer. Lovett slips a lot of (perhaps ironic) sadism and misogyny into his lyrics, from the bedroom ropin'-and-ridin' imagery in "Cowboy Man" to the murderous husband of "Pontiac" ("And I might just leave her still / after the sun goes down"). The theoretically down-home Lovett is also a bit of a cosmopolitan sophisticate: He met ex-wife Julia Roberts while acting in a Robert Altman film, and on his latest CD, My Baby Don't Tolerate, he offhandedly boasts, "I've been to Paris / and I don't mean Texas / I met Wim Wenders / One time in London." Still, how many of Lovett's fans care to parse his layers of reference and irony is a moot issue: He remains a great, subtle jazz-via-country singer, and his Large Band is a force of musical nature.
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