On the Couch

Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt talk shop

Lovett (left) and Hiatt
Lovett (left) and Hiatt (by Gary Miller)

If Lyle Lovett ever tires of writing and singing songs, he has a future as a talk show host. That was apparent Tuesday, the first of two sold-out nights at the Paramount Theater, in which the 2011 Texas State Musician shared the stage with John Hiatt for two glorious hours, wielding only acoustic guitars and the occasional harmonica between them.

Lovett lightheartedly peppered his Nashville-via-Indiana compadre with questions. Some were about an appearance Hiatt made with Ry Cooder at the Paramount in the early 1980s, which Lovett witnessed. Others were about recording and songwriting and even, “Have you ever been in jail?” (The answer was yes, but only overnight.)

In between cheerful banter, they exchanged songs from the breadth of their careers - “Memphis in the Meantime,” and “I Will Rise Up,” “Buffalo River Home” and “L.A. County.” Hiatt debuted the slinky “All the Way Under,” a new one from his forthcoming Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns.

Lovett paid tribute to his deceased friend Walter Hyatt with an ardent reading of “Lonely in Love.” They backed each other up with vocals and guitar solos throughout. Lovett brought on Ray Benson, who sang his own “Hot Like That,” a swinging yet suitable match to the night’s cagey wordplay. Hiatt then related Benson was the one who initially recommended Sonny Landreth for his band the Goners, when Cooder was no longer an option.

Hiatt broke out “Have a Little Faith in Me” on guitar, a tune regularly performed on piano, and still managed to raise the hair on your neck with its intimacy. Lovett’s “If I Had a Boat” closed the set on a whimsical if familiar note. Back porch? Living room? A TV pilot? It didn’t matter. Between two great American songwriters and the audience, all came away happily enlightened.

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Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt

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