Picks and Pans Review: King Tears

updated 11/05/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/05/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Walter Hyatt

While Lyle Lovett co-produced it and it was recorded in Nashville, this album has very little to do with country music. It fairly defies categorization, in fact, though Hyatt falls somewhere along the pop-to-lounge jazz continuum. He's a singer who is unlikely to set off any perfect-pitch alarms but has a pungent, ingratiating style, something along the lines of Hoagy Carmichael. He also writes quirky, bluesy tunes, such as the title track: "She sang a song, and that's all it took for me/And that's how she got my freedom/And the man I used to be."

It's a measure of his eccentricity that the two songs on this album he had no hand in writing are "Ruby," the Heinz Roemheld-Milchell Parish song associated with Ray Charles, and "Que Reste-t-il de Nos Amours?" a 1942 tune by Charles Trenet known as "I Wish You Love" in its English version. Hyatt sings it in French—the title is closer to "Is There Anything Left of Our Love?"—and quite affectingly too.

Hyatt, 41, is from Spartanburg, S.C. He was performing in Texas in the early '80s when he met Lovett, who opened for him at a club in College Station. Last year Hyatt returned the favor, opening for Lovett on his Large Band tour.

Hyatt sings on this album in front of an acoustic quartet that includes a high school pal, guitarist Champ Hood and studio pianist Matt Rollings. Another buddy of Hyatt's, David Ball, adds a harmony vocal. (Ball's big-time debut album was unaccountably shelved last year by RCA.)

Niche-finding may well be a problem for Hyatt—it's hard to imagine many radio stations playing this kind of thing, for instance. But everybody would profit from making room for him on one shelf or other. (MCA)

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