Since emerging on the scene in the mid-'80s, Lyle Lovett has never been shy about his quirky sense of humor.
The Texas troubadour has written songs about penguins, skinny legs and penned the lyrics "fat babies have no pride."
But one of his cleverest insights arrived last year, not in a song but an album cover: the stark image of him standing in a desert, tied up with a rope, looking forlorn beneath the title "Release Me."
It was the last album in his contract with label Curb/Lost Highway. After nearly three decades, he wanted out.
"The marketing guys from Lost Highway called up laughing when they saw the cover," Lovett said.
The album was filled with mostly cover songs, tributes to fellow Texans Townes Van Zandt and Eric Taylor.
"The only song I learned for the record was 'Release Me.' I'd always loved that song, but I did it really as a joke to be able to name the album that," he said. "But I was really proud of the way the track came out and to get to do it with k.d. (lang)."
It fit perfectly and made the album work as a whole, something he has always strived for, even in an age of 99-cent singles.
Over the years, swinging between blues, country, gospel and jazz, Lovett has played more than a dozen shows in Sonoma County, whether doing spare acoustic shows with Guy Clark and John Hiatt or taking over every inch of the stage with his 14-piece Large Band.
Before Lovett plays his first show at the Green Music Center on Monday, once again sharing a stage with John Hiatt, he took a tour break to chat about songwriting, the muse and liberation: