Certain Songs #1053: Lyle Lovett – “If I Had A Boat”

Album: Pontiac
Year: 1987

If Lyle Lovett’s debut album proposed an artist who wasn’t going to be fully bound by his particular genre designation — in this case, “Country”, then the follow-up, Pontiac, doubled down on that proposition.

Of course there were straight-out country songs, but there were also folk songs, R&B songs (which he would explore more deeply on the follow-up), and whatever in the hell “If I Had a Boat” was.

Over a twinkling country blues guitar and a descending bassline, Lovett does two things that I’m a sucker for: start a song with the chorus and start a song with the word “and.”

And if I had a boat
I’d go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony
I’d ride him on my boat
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean
I said me upon my pony on my boat

And while I’d be the first to admit that this doesn’t make a whole helluva lot of sense, by the time the kick-drum / hi-hat beat comes in for the second chorus over a swirling steel guitar and strumming acoustic, you’re already lost in the eternally beautiful melody he came up with, and probably not ready for the next verse:

Now the mystery masked man was smart
He got himself a Tonto
‘Cause Tonto did the dirty work for free
But Tonto he was smarter
And one day said “Kemosabe
Kiss my ass I bought a boat
I’m going out to sea”

And that’s where we’re going to leave them: Lyle Lovett & Tonto riding their ponies on their respective boats, without a care in the world.

Official video for “If I Had a Boat”

“If I Had a Boat” performed live

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3 Responses to “Certain Songs #1053: Lyle Lovett – “If I Had A Boat””

  1. Ira Brooker says:

    I don’t know if there’s an artist who can bring me so consistently close to tears with songs I’ve heard a hundred times over a couple of decades. This is near the top of the list.

  2. Jim Connelly says:

    Get ready then, cos I have a couple of three-hanky songs on deck!

  3. Ira Brooker says:

    Hoping for some “Step Inside This House” material. Maybe my favorite covers album of all time.