home is where the horse is

lyle lovett. photo by michael wilson.

lyle lovett. photo by michael wilson.

It is record release day for Lyle Lovett – a Tuesday where his 14th album, Natural Forces, is being unleashed unto the world.

Typically, such an occasion becomes the apex of a promotional push, a day loaded with TV appearances, performances and any number of exercises to capitalize on what is, in essence, “opening day” for a recording.

For Lovett, multiple Grammy Award winning songsmith, stylistically innovative bandleader and all around Texan, the day is something of breather. A fall duo tour with fellow songwriting pal John Hiatt concluded two days earlier. In less than a week, he will be back on the road for a month’s worth of shows with his Large Band, the brassy Americana army that has been his most visible performance vehicle of the past two decades.

That means while Natural Forces introduces the next edition of Lyle Lovett music, Lovett himself is back, briefly, in the only place he has ever called home – Texas.

“It’s exactly where I’ve lived all my life, on the same piece of ground I grew up on outside of Houston.”

To many, Lovett is modern embodiment of Texas music – its celebratory swing, its vigorous country soul and, most of all, its extraordinarily literate sense of storytelling. His songs are outlined with thieving hearts, family yarns and an unfailing pride in anything that hails from Lone Star territory.

In short, Lovett isn’t merely a Texas artist. He is the state’s unofficial cultural ambassador to the universe.

“All of that is high praise,” Lovett said by phone. “But I just feel that my music is a reflection of the music I’m drawn to. My intention with the songs I write is to say, ‘Hey, this is where I’m from.'”

On Natural Forces, the Texas inspirations are considerable. There are four new compositions (one of which, Pantry, is reprised with a bluegrass arrangement), six tunes penned by fellow Texas songwriters that have long been friends and mentoring influences and a song (It’s Rock and Roll) he co-wrote nearly three decades ago with fellow Lone Star scribe Robert Earl Keen.

“My father once told me that if I went through life with at least two best friends, I was set,” Keen said. “I went, ‘What are you talking about? I’ve got lots of friends.’ But sure enough, he was right. And to say I have had Lyle as a best friend all these years has been wonderful.”

For Lovett, the initial songwriting pull came from the masters – Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Vince Bell and the like. But not even Texas could contain Lovett’s expanding celebrity status as the ‘90s progressed. He toured internationally and took regular turns as an actor in television and film, including roles in five Robert Altman movies. But as the chorus of Natural Forces‘ title tune states, “home is where my horse is.” As such, Lovett devoted his sublime 1998 double-disc album Step Inside This House entirely to the music of his Texas inspirations. He does the same on the better half of Natural Forces.

“With Natural Forces, I knew going in that I didn’t have 10 new songs of my own that I was thrilled about recording,” Lovett said. “But those I did have I didn’t want to get any older. I was very excited about recording them. The other songs were first considered for Step Inside This House. They have long been part of my musical life. I didn’t learn anything new for this record. These were songs I’ve played and known for years.”

Listen to Natural Forces as a whole and it is good bet that, unless you already know the outside material, you won’t be able to distinguish Lovett the songwriter from Lovett the Texas interpreter. The songs share similar tones, temperaments and human detail. At its best, as on Lovett’s Empty Blue Shoes, the mood is stark to the point of being impressionistic.

“I met Lyle in Dallas at a club that’s now gone,” said guitarist Leo Kottke who shared numerous concert bills with Lovett following the release of the Texan’s self-titled debut album in 1986.

“I was in the dressing room and I could hear Lyle walk onstage. He hadn’t sung a note yet. He just walked onstage and the room instantly became quiet. Some people can just immediately fill a stage. Lyle is one of them.”

Of course, the ensemble Lovett has favored in filling performance rooms over the years has been his Large Band. It has accompanied Lovett at various Lexington venues over the past 22 years, from his local debut at the long-defunct Rhinestone’s on Athens-Boonesboro Rd. in 1988 to a headlining performance at Rupp Arena in 2001.

“That’s the beauty of that band – so many of us have played together for so many years. But that’s also the part that doesn’t seem real because I remember that first Lexington gig in 1988. It does not seem like it was over 20 years ago.

“You know, I was asked early on in interviews about my goals. People would ask, ‘What would success mean for you?’ The answer I always used to give was, ‘Success would be the ability to continue doing something I love to do.’ All these years later, that’s still my definition. To do something I love without feeling guilty because I have to also devote time to another job. To be able to legitimately engage in this music all the time…I mean, there is just not a better feeling. That’s the blessing of it all.”

Lyle Lovett and his Large Band performs at 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Norton Center for the Arts at Centre College in Danville. Tickets are $60-125. Call (877) 448-7469.

Profile: Allegations of racism at Ralph Lauren stores

NPR Special August 5, 2003 | ALEX CHADWICK ALEX CHADWICK NPR Special 08-05-2003 Profile: Allegations of racism at Ralph Lauren stores

Host: ALEX CHADWICK Time: 4:00-5:00 PM


This is DAY TO DAY. I’m Alex Chadwick.

The world has its mind on fashion–well, the fashion world has its mind on fashion–as the major designers begin to unveil next year’s spring lineup. Ralph Lauren employee Toni Young also has her mind on fashion because she’s suing the designer.

Ms. TONI YOUNG (Ralph Lauren Employee): I’ve had black clients come to me and say, you know, `This has been the worst shopping experience of my life. You know, how do you deal with it? You know, I’m a shopper and I can’t deal with it.’

CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY reporter Mike Pesca, this woman is now suing Ralph Lauren because some customers have had bad service?

MIKE PESCA reporting:

No, Alex. Toni Young is alleging discrimination. She says a manager of Ralph Lauren’s San Francisco Polo store called her a black bitch and asked her if she spoke Ebonics. She says an assistant manager complained that her hair was too nappy and needed to be straightened. She also says that every time a black customer walks in the store, a secret code is relayed to employees alerting security to look out for shoplifting. The company wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit. web site ralph lauren coupon

Now if Young’s allegations are true, it might be just one poorly run store or a few poorly thought-out security policies, or it may have something to do with Ralph Lauren’s corporate culture.

CHADWICK: And what do you mean by that? What corporate culture?

PESCA: Well, Ralph Lauren, to quote his annual report, wants to “inspire the world to live life with style.” Fine. But Ralph’s definition of style is obviously tied to things like country clubs and yachting and polo ponies, which is also fine in and of themselves, unless those things come to equal whiteness. And that’s where a retailer like Polo or Abercrombie & Fitch can butt up against the multicultural reality of America 2003.

(Soundbite of traffic)

PESCA: So to get a grasp of the Ralph Lauren image, I went to the Ralph Lauren store in Beverly Hills. That’s Rodeo Drive traffic you’re hearing. And I relied on the eyes of a marketing professor, UCLA’s Aimee Drolet, who told me what she saw.

Professor AIMEE DROLET (UCLA): It was like going into a very wealthy, early 20th-century Manhattanite’s mansion. And you look on the stairs and there’s all the photos of the family members you wish you had and you’d wish had left you money. And, you know, of course, there are knickknacks everywhere, nautical themes, horsey themes, all of the things that go along with being a WASP, all of the things you have to do as a WASP. You have to sail, you have to ride horses, you have to pack in nice luggage.

PESCA: Of course, all your imagined ancestors depicted in the vintage photos on the mansion’s walls are white people. That’s not surprising coming from a high-end retailer, says Leon Wynter, author of “American Skin: Pop Culture, Big Business and The End of White America.” in our site ralph lauren coupon

Mr. LEON WYNTER (Author, “American Skin: Pop Culture, Big Business and The End of White America”): To the extent that there is some kind of taint that might possibly still be associated with non-whites, because after all, for so many years in marketing for this country that was the state of affairs. You didn’t want that association, especially in high fashion.

PESCA: But he says there is an irony.

Mr. WYNTER: And at the same time, you couldn’t help noticing that when a rapper or so on decides to mention your product by name that can drive share points.

PESCA: That’s what happened to Tommy Hilfiger. A decade ago, Tommy Hilfiger was just a less-articulated version of Ralph Lauren. But when rappers began to wear and sing about his styles, Hilfiger embraced it and as a result exploded in popularity. But the market was fickle and the backlash was severe, and Tommy Hilfiger’s fortunes have plummeted. Of course, Ralph Lauren noticed. The proof, according to UCLA’s Aimee Drolet, is mere steps outside Ralph Lauren’s Rodeo Drive entrance.

Prof. DROLET: If you just walk a few feet down the block, there is an empty store, a large store, that was the Tommy Hilfiger store. And I think that it closed, in part, because of overexpansion. I think you can still see–get a Tommy Hilfiger store in the Beverly Center Mall, and that’s probably where the rent is cheaper. But it is a bit of an emblem about, you know, the rise and somewhat fall or decline of some brands.

PESCA: So, Alex, in the past decade, no brand has risen like Abercrombie & Fitch.

CHADWICK: Wasn’t Abercrombie once associated with Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway going on safari?

PESCA: It was, and it earned the reputation as stuffy, old and Waspy. But today, teens love Abercrombie, and it’s getting a reputation as sexy, young and, well, Waspy in the pages of their catalogs and in their hiring practices. At least that’s what’s alleged in a lawsuit brought by a group of Hispanic, Asian and black employees and applicants who say they were turned away from not fitting what Abercrombie calls `the classic American look.’

CHADWICK: So are you talking about racism or something called lookism?

PESCA: Well, Toni Young says the lookism she experienced was racism. And while Ralph Lauren’s not commenting on the suit, their problem is they have such a strong brand image, which is exactly what a brand wants, but because of what that image is, they’re susceptible to the kinds of lawsuits over employment practices that they’re dealing with right now.

CHADWICK: All right. Thanks, Mike. But while Toni Young is carrying out this suit against Ralph Lauren, she still is working for the store.

PESCA: That’s right, Alex.

CHADWICK: Thank you, Mike.

PESCA: Thank you, Alex.


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