Lyle Lovett, "Natural Forces"
Lyle Lovett's 12th album, "Natural Forces," should be hailed as an antidote to the absurd commercialism that permeates much of American popular music. That's not to say his previous albums were lacking in this-each stands as a testament to Lovett's peerless ability to seek out and illuminate the often hidden irony of the human condition. Considering that Lovett penned four of the songs on the new album (with the balance authored by such poets as Townes Van Zandt, David Ball, Don Sanders and Eric Taylor), one might expect a somewhat disjointed listening experience. But that's hardly the case, as Lovett deftly accomplishes the opposite and triumphs in taking the listener on a cohesive journey. "Whooping Crane" is clever wordplay devoted to the sometimes futile search for life's meaning, while "Loretta" is a man's wry concoction of a not-so-perfect imaginary lover. And the title track is a multi-act drama that zigzags between meandering individualism and social justice. From the blue double-entendre of the song "Farmer Brown/Chicken Reel" to the cautionary "It's Rock and Roll," "Natural Forces" satisfies from start to finish.-Wade Jessen