Critic's Choice

It's not a natural instinct to pity your betters, but you almost have to feel sorry for Lyle Lovett. In a way, Katy's own local-boy-made-good flew a tad too close to the sun, and the sun -- for a moment -- threatened to burn him back down to earth. That implies a cautionary tale at work, but really believing that is as foolish as feeling sorry for millionaires. And after all, what did the poor man do but sing a bunch of wry and heartfelt songs, find himself in demand as a movie cameo player and fall in love with a pretty woman? What would you have done?

For his trouble, Lovett got called the ugliest man in America by a clique of celebrity pundits who have obviously not taken a very good look around the nation lately, bit on the ass by a fickle girlfriend and chased across the country by an unscrupulous horde of tabloid scribblers -- one of whom went so far as to smack into the back of the Tomball-bound car in which Lovett was driving his dad to lunch, just to extract his editor's request for a "no comment" on that season's Julia rumors.

So after enduring all of this abuse with, it should be noted, a great deal of class (we learn our manners from mama here in Texas), Lovett comes back, naturally enough, with a fine, if somewhat subdued, CD called I Love Everybody. Which means either that Lovett is a saint (and he does own a face that could launch a thousand prayers), or he's got his tongue firmly implanted in his cheek. Or more likely, as is Lovett's style, a heaping helping of both.

And anyone who thinks that Lovett perhaps got himself a big head from his adventures in that Wonderland on the West Coast wasn't lucky enough to be in the room a few months back at Ovations, where Lovett mentor, folk eminence and singing cowboy Don Sanders was hosting the first of a month's worth of Wednesday night songwriter circles with some close friends and old buddies.

Sanders seemed to be enjoying himself enormously that evening, and when a bashful-looking Lovett walked out of the greenroom area to take a stool on-stage -- spitting distance from the crowd whose support launched him out of Texas circles and into the celebrity stratosphere in the first place -- you could reach out and squeeze that homecoming spirit.

Lovett played funny songs and earnest songs, as if he were trying them out in their natural state for the first time in too long, and if there was an unspoken subtext of celebrity curiosity in the room, he quickly overwhelmed it with his talent for songs and soul. Lovett, who initially looked almost nervous, warmed up fast, bringing the crowd to its feet for a well-deserved round of applause. Sunday, when he returns again to Houston, he'll be back in the limelight, playing to the thousands instead of the few. But I put my money on odds that he'll bring us to our feet all over again.

-- Brad Tyer

Lyle Lovett and His Large Band perform at 8 p.m. Sunday, August 27 at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands. Tickets are $15 to $40. For info, call 629-3700.

Milton Hopkins -- There have been few performers of the blues who have paid more hard-working, legendary dues than guitarist Milton Hopkins, who toured with Johnny Ace and Big Mama Thornton while still in his teens, learned the finer elements of the craft from Duke/Peacock's A&R genius Joe Scott, toured for years with B.B. King and -- over a decade of hanging around the old hometown -- played more than 900 gigs at the Reddi Room.

For the last year, Hopkins has frequently hung his hat at the Velvet Elvis on Thursdays, and now they've asked him to kick off their three-day "First Anniversary Patron Appreciation Party." The Guy Forsyth Band plays the roof, while Hopkins works the room below. At Velvet Elvis, 3303 Richmond, Thursday, August 24. 868-3862. (Jim Sherman)

Carlos Vives -- You might not know it if all you've heard are the English language, attempted-crossover songs of Julio Iglesias, but Spanish music can be some of the most romantic around. It's just such a shot of lust -- excuse me, love -- that's made Colombia's Carlos Vives a hot property. The self-anointed "king of vallenatos" (which are Colombian folk songs) started out as an actor and rock performer before he saw there was a career to be had as a man of feelings. Vives has been getting them all hot and bothered in Europe for a while, and now he's bringing his heartthrob self to the States to stir up a little enthusiasm. At Hofheinz Pavilion, University of Houston, Sunday, August 27. 629-3700. (Mitchell J. Shields)

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jim Sherman
Mitchell J. Shields
Brad Tyer