Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Lyle Lovett: Pontiac [Curb, 1987]
He's another Nashville neotraditionalist who's trying his damnedest to surpass a not-bad debut, a rounder who's better off playing the husband (as in the unembittered "Give Back My Heart" and "She's No Lady"), with something of Merle's jazz feel and a weakness for songpoetry ("If I Had a Boat," help). And he's something of a hit as he joins such succes d'estime as pure Ricky Skaggs, clean Dwight Yoakam, clear-eyed Ricky Van Shelton, straight George Strait, reborn Reba McEntire, King Shit Randy Travis, and the great Rosanne Cash in a critical-commercial conflux that recalls the chart-topping days of Beatles, Stones, and, er, Jefferson Airplane. Why isn't this more of an up? Because all it means is that the folkies have taken over the establishment again, and a piss-poor one at that--these artists often spend the better part of a year going gold. Granted, the new trend does lend credence to the old folkie claim of proximity to the hearts of the people. But it also lends credence to the old antifolkie charge of middle-class romanticism in disguise. B-