That's Right, I'm Not From Texas

… but I did pay tuition there a decade or so ago.

Okay, that was a pointless aside, and not-very-artful way of saying that I didn’t watch a lick of Mrs. Heinz-Ketchup, Governor YEEEEAAAAGH!, or Senator Chappaquiddick last night. Instead, I got to enjoy a blissful evening at Atlanta’s Chastain Ampetheater hosted by the one and only Lyle Lovett (who, to the everlasting gratitude of his audience, remains blessedly apolitical in public).

Lovett’s shows are always a highlight of the summer concert season at Chastain, and this year was no exception. He’s stripped down the Large Band to an all-strings ensemble for this tour (two guitars, mandolin, violin, lap steel, cello and bass, plus drums and piano), dropping the horn section and most of the backup singers. The result is a leaner, more rootsy sound that emphasizes Lovett’s country and blues roots while maintaining a healthy dose of the jazz influences that make him such a unique perfomer and songwriter.

Personally, I love the sound a great horn section brings to much of Lovett’s music, and I have to say I preferred the 2003 set to the 2004, but these are quibbles. It was a marvelous evening, and nobody on stage ever so much as blushed at the thought of hitting a wrong note.

As has become the standard for Lovett’s local appearances, the show was stolen by Atlanta’s own queen of the blues, the luminous Francine Reed. It only took one song with Reed on backing vocals for my friends to say, “Now we know why you keep telling us to go see her!” Reed’s a gem, and a great performer; if you ever see her name on a marquee, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket.