Song of the Day #987: ‘It Ought to Be Easier’ – Lyle Lovett

So we have reached the final installment in my 20-day series on great albums. Singing us out is Lyle Lovett and his 1996 album The Road to Ensenada.

Lovett’s albums tend to suffer from multiple personality disorder. His influences are so broad and his style so far-reaching that his records often end up as a hodgepodge of great ideas. He dabbles in country, jazz, blues, rock and gospel, making for wonderful songs but schizophrenic albums.

The Road to Ensenada avoids that confusion. It’s a straightforward collection of traditional country and honky-tonk and, though it is less expansive than his earlier work, it remains the best thing he has ever done.

I don’t mean to imply that this album lacks diversity… hell, it doesn’t lack anything. And the bossa nova story song ‘Her First Mistake’ is proof enough that Lovett is still stretching his musical boundaries. But there is a focus and thematic unity here that gives the album power.

I’ve already featured three of this album’s songs on the blog: the haunting title track, the aforementioned ‘Her First Mistake‘ and ‘Fiona,’ a song so good it’s partially responsible for the name of my younger daughter.

The Road to Ensenada is the third album in this series to focus on a breakup (in this case, the dissolution of Lovett’s brief marriage to Julia Roberts). Many of the songs touch on that experience, either directly or indirectly.

Today’s track is told from the perspective of a man who has been mistreated in the relationship and has gathered the strength to walk away. He wants more than anything for things to be like they once were, but he knows that’s never going to happen.

Tell your mama I love her
Tell your daddy I tried
Tell them I wish that I could explain
The way that I’m feeling

See the sun comes up on the pavement
The pavement it starts to sweat
The steam rises up from the water
And the hotter it is you know the harder it gets

And it ought to be easier
When you turn your lights down low
And it ought to be easier
To leave when you know that you have to go

I know you don’t believe me
And I know you don’t understand
But honey the way that you treat me
I can’t even tell who I am

And you tell me I’m the one you’re not to blame
And you tell me I make you feel the same way
And we talk in circles but we never say
It’s just out of weakness that both of us stay

And it ought to be easier
When you turn your lights down low
And it ought to be easier
To leave when you know that you have to go

I look at you when you’re sleeping
And I think about how it could be
If you would wake up and open your arms
And hold me

But you look at me when you wake up
With eyes that are angry and mean
And I turn away and walk into the kitchen
And I pray for the strength to leave

Because it ought to be easier
When you turn your lights down low
And it ought to be easier
To leave when you know that you have to go
To leave when you know that you have to go

So tell your mama I love her
I hope she knows that I tried
Tell her I wish that I could explain
The way that I’m feeling

See the suns comes up on the pavement
The pavement it starts to sweat
The steam rises up from the water
And the hotter it is you know the harder it gets
The hotter it is you know the harder it gets
The hotter it is you know the harder it gets

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #987: ‘It Ought to Be Easier’ – Lyle Lovett

  1. Amy says:

    This may be the most poignant and pointed break up song ever written. Every time I listen to it, I find myself wanting to drive to a Blockbuster, rent Pretty Woman and set the disc on fire (or drive over it, or take some other drastic action to demonstrate my anger at the pain she caused my Lyle!)

    Then, of course, I reflect some more, recognize that she has gone on to have a successful marriage and raise a family, while Lyle has remained unmarried (if not unattached), so perhaps he did share the blame and earn the angry and mean eyes that greeted him as he stared at his sleeping bride, recognizing what a great album he could get out of their divorce 😉

    Seriously though, how brilliant and haunting to start off the song with such a simple message. Please convey to your parents that I love them and I tried; I certainly didn’t anticipate that our marriage would come to an end, and I likely won’t have much to say to either of them once we’ve divorced – despite the fact that, for the moment at least, they’re my parents (in-law), and I’m their son (in-law). That refrain – and the most haunting line in the center of the song – “it’s just out of weakness that both of us stay” – make this song just brilliant in my estimation.

    And you already know, of course, that I share your admiration for the album in its entirety (though I could live without the backhanded compliments about what a hodgepodge his albums tend to be – as I love each of them dearly!)

  2. Amy says:

    Oh, and by the way, you’ve only managed to share 30 seconds of the song here. Please embed the whole thing! 🙂 Thanks!

  3. Dana says:

    Not sure what Amy is talking about regarding the embedding–whole thing is playing for me.

    Anyway, I agree that this is a very strong album, though I still find Joshua Judges Ruth to be a more compelling work overall. Admittedly, the fact that Joshua tilts more toward gospel influences and away from traditional country probably has much to do with my personal preference.

    I do agree with you, however, that other Lyle albums suffer a bit from his musical split personalities. Of course, for me, his first few albums suffer because of the country songs, but I suspect you might disagree with that, Mr. Country:)

    I would argue, though, that the highlights of Pontiac and Large Band (namely the blues numbers) are better, at least musically, than almost anything found on Ensenada (or even Joshua for that matter). The truth is that my “perfect” Lyle album would be a mix CD with about half of Pontiac, half of Large Band and then a sprinkling of Joshua and Ensenada (oh, and I would HAVE to have “An Acceptable Level of Ecstasy” from his first album.)

  4. Clay says:

    Actually, though I am Mr. Country, I agree with you that the country songs weaken his earlier albums. I think he almost went out of his way to write overtly “country” country songs to contrast the blues and jazz elements.

    When he blends the country elements in more subtly, that’s when he really has success. Today’s song is a great example.

    I agree that the first half of Large Band represents some of the very best of Lyle, though it’s rather cynical and removed as compared to the very emotional songs on The Road to Ensenada.

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