Lately, Lyle Lovett has been getting asked a question that's really caught him off-guard if he plans to retire.
"It's perplexing to me. I just started telling people I am retired," Lovett, 50, says. "People talk about getting to retire and doing the things they've wanted to do. I've just been so fortunate to be able to live my whole life like that. So going out [on tour] in the summer and getting together with my best friends and favorite musicians and riding around in the bus with them, it truly has a summer-camp feeling to it, where we all pull together and go on the road. It's just something that I really look forward to."
So Lovett's endless retirement rolls on again with what has become an annual tradition, a summer on tour with his Large Band.
It is his first full run of dates since the release last August of his current studio CD, It's Not Big It's Large a CD recorded with the help of the Large Band, which when fully deployed, contains roughly 18 musicians and singers.
This configuration allows Lovett to showcase the full arsenal of his stylistic range, which runs from acoustic country and folk to pop to swinging horn-filled jazz and blues.
The full Large Band is featured on three songs from the latest CD: two gospel-tinged tunes, "I Will Rise Up" and "Ain't No More Cane," and the jazzy opening instrumental, "Tickle Toe."
From there, Lovett breaks things down, using his core band and strings on the toe-tapping country rocker "All Downhill" and the frisky "Up in Indiana." On the reflective ballads "Don't Cry a Tear" and "The Alley Song," he strips things back to a near-acoustic guitar/vocal setting.
"Certainly not every song on the record is one of those kind of Large Band arrangements," Lovett says in regard to the diverse arrangements on It's Not Big It's Large. "Actually some of the starkest group of songs I've ever recorded are a part of that record as well."
This summer, Lovett will turn his attention from writing to touring. This time out, the Large Band won't be quite as big (er, large) as it has been on some tours.
The horn section is not along for the ride, although a core band that includes the highly respected Russ Kunkel on drums, Viktor Krauss on bass and Ray Herndon (an original Large Band alumnus) returning on guitar, is joined by the Large Band vocal group.
The set, Lovett says, will be tailored to the special talents of the Large Band musicians.
"We still want people to know about the new record, so we'll play some of those songs," says Lovett. "I'll just pick songs that feature the people that are in the band this year. That's really how I put a set of music together. I try to pick songs that give everybody that's in the band a chance to have a spotlighted moment at some point in the show."