In 1998, when Lyle Lovett starts to sing about bears on the first track of the first CD of his Step Inside this House release (MCA/Curb (MCAD2-11831), you'd think it was pure Lovett:
Some folks say there ain't no bears in Arkansas.
Some folks never seen a bear at all.
Some folks say that bears go around eating babies raw.
Some folks got a bear across the hall.
Some folks say that bears go around smelling bad.
Others say that a bear is honey sweet.
Some folks say "this bear's the best I ever had."
Some folks got a bear beneath their feet.
After all, Lyle had turned his peculiar songwriting talents to songs about his affection for ponies in "If I Had a Boat" (from Pontiac) and one girl's obsession with "Penguins" on I Love Everybody. But "Bears", released as the first single from the album, is, like all the songs on it, a cover version. Written by Stephen Fromholz, an artist that Lovett discovered via Jan Reid's 1973 book on the Austin music scene, The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock, the song first appeared on Fromholz's 1976 LP, Rumor in My Own Time.
Some folks drive the bears out of the wilderness.
Some to see a bear would pay a fee.
Me I just bear up to my bewildered best,
and some folks even seen the bear in me.
So meet a bear and take him out to lunch with you.
And even though your friends may stop and stare,
just remember that's a bear there in the bunch with you,
and they just don't come no better than a bear.
That's Lyle on guitar and vocals, Viktor Krauss on bass, Russ Kunkel on the drums, Matt Rollings on piano, and Dean Parks on electric guitar. Mandolin by Sam Bush (making the single one of the very few on Triple A radio to feature a mandolin solo) and yes, that dobro is played by Jerry Douglas.

And as to the meaning of the song? Was it included as a subtle, if absurdist, commentary of the life of a musical celebrity-- or as a loving tribute from a fan who learned guitar playing this song? Is it a wry paean to the inner beast lurking within us all? Or a humorous anti-prejudice anthem? In the end, perhaps, it may just a song about bears... (although when indie artist Mark Weigle sang it on his Out of the Loop CD, the term "bears" itself took on a different meaning in the context of Weigle's marketing to the gay community).

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