Lyle Lovett's definitive work with his aptly named Large Band is 1999's Live in Texas, which beautifully showcases the Klein native's range, pathos and delicious sense of irony set to the brash, wild sounds of a massive country-swing band. It's Not Big It's Large, name notwithstanding, is, in a way, a much smaller album. Outside the introductory swing number, Lester Young's "Tickle Toe," the animation and wit that propelled Live in Texas are rare, largely replaced with pensive meditations and near-spirituals. The more upbeat songs seem weighed down and sometimes push Lovett's characteristic understatement into vagueness, with the notable exception of the clever "No Big Deal." On "South Texas Girl," Lovett turns a charmingly creaky guest appearance from Guy Clark into a hymn to innocence with a profound sense of cultural belonging. The album's apotheosis is the Sugar Land prison song "Ain't No More Cane," a bleak chant of hopelessness and death Lovett recasts as "I Will Rise Up," a thunderous, melancholy prayer for strength and rebirth as powerful as anything he's done. It's reprised later in its traditional version, and together they give It's Not Big It's Large the universality and cultural largeness that were likely Lovett's goal.
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