In the end, Lovett got to work in person with Ainlay in putting the finishing touches on “12th of June,” but that didn’t happen until early this year.
So better late than never, fans of Lovett finally have new music to enjoy. And while Lovett, one of music’s finest and most literate songwriters, has done his share of excellent albums that lean toward country and feature a good bit of acoustic instrumentation (think his second album, 1987′s “Pontiac,” 1992′s “Joshua Judges Ruth” or 2012′s “Release Me”), “12th of June” is his third studio album billed with his Large Band.
With this ensemble of talented musicians (it will be a 14-member unit for this summer’s tour), Lovett is able to greatly expand his musical reach. That’s obvious right from the start of “12th of June,” which opens with a version of jazz great Horace Silver’s “Cookin’ at the Continental,” a lively instrumental that lets the Large Band showcase their considerable chops. Three duets with Lovett’s long-time vocal counterpart, former Atlantan Francine Reed, further cement the jazz credentials of all involved as they tackle two songs associated with Nat “King” Cole, the peppy “Straighten Up & Fly Right,” the bluesy ballad “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You,” as well as the David Frishberg-panned standard “Peel Me A Grape,”
Lovett’s more country-leaning sound emerges on the ballads “Her Loving Man,” “The Mocking Ones” and the title track, while “Pig Meat Man” puts a bit of soul and blues into the mix and “Are We Dancing” adds a string-laden ballad that is rooted in the pre-rock and roll era.
The long gap between “12th of June” and Lovett’s previous album, 2012′s “Release Me,” was largely the product of being between record deals and needing time to figure out how he wanted to release his next collection of songs, coupled with a major development in Lovett’s personal life — his marriage to long-time girlfriend April Kimble in 2017, followed by the birth of the couple’s twins. Along with touring commitments — Lovett tends to play around 100 concerts during normal years — these factors absorbed a lot of time over the past decade.
Marriage and fatherhood figure prominently into the lyrics of the original songs on “12th of June.” “Her Loving Man” is a sweet tribute to Kimble and her intelligence, wisdom and warmth. The title song is a touching tune that imagines a father carrying his love for his wife and children into the next life. Lovett applies his trademark wry humor to “Pants is Overrated,” which was inspired one day when his children were resisting the idea of getting dressed, and “Pig Meat Man,” an ode to pork.
Lovett is happy to be able to share the music and messages of his new material on tour with his Large Band this summer.
“We’ll play material from across my catalog, but we will definitely feature material from this (new) album,” he said. “It’s always fun to have a new record out and it’s always fun to have a reason to play those newly recorded songs. We did six shows in four days in New York in May, the week after the album was released, and we had a great time playing together for the first time as the Large Band since August of 2019. So we had a great time all being together and it just made me really look forward to this tour.”
Lyle Lovett with Chris Isaak
8 p.m. Aug. 18. $69-$164. Atlanta Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta. aso.org.