It'll be easy to tell the Rickie Lee Jones fans from the Lyle Lovett fans Sunday at The Santa Barbara County Bowl. Jones' fans will be mostly serious young women, liberal English lit major types who will hang on every phrase and be quick to say, "Shhh, Rickie Lee is singing." Lovett's fans will be the ones giving them hotfoots. Or laughing.
While this bill is not a mismatch similar to The Surf Punks and Journey, both artists offer different interpretations of what it's all about. Jones is jazzy, spacey and introspective. Lovett is country and blues--and funny.
Just look at his hair. Is he the Woody Woodpecker of Texas country and Western singers? Would a cowboy hat fit over all that hair?
Grammy award-winning Lovett, obviously, isn't your basic country and Western singer. He's a real live Texan--born, raised and still living in Klein (near Houston). He has a journalism degree from Texas A&M and did graduate work in German. He wears cowboy boots and drives a pickup truck. Since his 1986 debut album, critics have been trying to decide just what sort of music Lovett plays. Sure, it's country, but . . .
Even cowboys get the blues. Lovett's songs often deal with love--love lame, love lousy, love on the lam, getting the picture? It's not exactly traditional country cryin' in your beer music, but maybe laughing in your beer. From "She's No Lady," a sample line:
"The preacher asked her and she said 'I do.'
The preacher asked me and she said, 'Yes he does too.'
And the preacher said, 'I pronounce you 99 to life
Son she's no lady she's your wife . . .' "
Lovett began performing when he was in the ninth grade with some other Future Farmers of America pals. Then, while in college, he began writing songs and became your basic introspective singer/songwriter. His big break came in, of all places, Luxembourg in 1983. Invited to play at a country music festival, Lovett hooked up with J. David Sloan and The Rogues, a band from Phoenix. Back in the states, the band backed Lovett; they made a tape, got signed to MCA records, and three songs off his 1986 debut disc made the country Top 20.
Members of The Rogues still form the core of the current ensemble Lyle Lovett and His Large Band. It's not exactly a a cast of thousands but The Large Band is pretty large with nine members. They can play blues, jazz or rock in addition to country plus all the variations between.
From "Here I Am," another sample lyric:
"If Ford is to Chevrolet
What Corn Flakes are to Post Toasties
What the clear blues sky is to the deep blue sea
What Hank Williams is to Neil Armstrong
Can you doubt we were made for each other . . . "
Sort of John Prine meets Randy Newman, Lovett is your basic crossover artist. In other words, don't expect the cowboy hat, pointy shoes crowd. He's got three albums now, each outselling its predecessor, putting him on his way to wherever he's going. For now, it's the every-seat-is-a-great-seat tree-lined Santa Barbara County Bowl.
* WHERE AND WHEN: Rickie Lee Jones with special guest Lyle Lovett on Sunday July 15 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $22, $19.50 and $17. 1122 North Milpas St. Santa Barbara. Call 966-2727.