These days, listening to a new album is like hovering above a city in a helicopter: The experience might be spectacular, but eventually you want to feel as if you’re headed somewhere. It’s easy to forget how fresh Lovett’s gospelized country-swing sounded when he first burst upon the scene in the mid-eighties—easy because he hasn’t altered his style a whit in the decades since. It’s Not Big It’s Large (Lost Highway), accomplished as it may be, resonates with a sense of déjà vu, even down to the title. Sure, there are moments to savor. “I Will Rise Up” is a trademark Lovett rouser, as is his take on “Ain’t No More Cane”; “All Downhill” is a Randy Newman–esque rumination; and the album’s most honest interlude, “This Traveling Around,” reveals a star in need of rest. But there are also the head-scratchers: the ineffectually tame Lester Young opener, a reprise of one of the weaker songs in the set, and a lot of other roads you’ve been down before. You could argue that Lovett is sticking to what he does best—and you’d be right; his die-hard fans will love the album—but, c’mon, even Willie mixes things up now and then.
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