On her 16th LP, Shelby Lynne probes her psyche and allows her listeners to witness her resolve
Artist: Shelby Lynne
Album: Shelby Lynne
Label: Everson Records
★★★★ (4/5 stars)
Shelby Lynne’s had plenty to draw from over the course of her 30 year career — an initial desire to sustain her country stardom, personal tragedy and emotional turmoil, the determination to secure artistic independence, and ultimately, a desire to make music of a varied variety. With her new album — appropriately self-titled — she draws on an equally powerful muse that draws little distinction between fact and fiction.
Then again, Lynne’s never been one to mask her intents, even when it came to breaking ranks with the Nashville hitmakers who were determined to make her a star by manipulating her accordingly.
A follow-up to Lynne’s last album, Not Dark Yet, her first and only co-billed effort with her sister Allison Moorer, the eponymous Shelby Lynne is the outgrowth of a film project she starred in titled “When We Kill the Creators.” A collaboration with producer, director and screenwriter, Cynthia Mort, it found Lynne playing the movie’s central character, a conflicted singer — not unlike herself — who’s forced to choose between pursuing her own muse and being manipulated by her masters for the sake of commercial success. Several of the songs, which Mort co-wrote, were recorded during production, reflecting the intimate environs, vulnerability and sheer spontaneously that factored into remarkably affecting set of songs.
VIDEO: Shelby Lynne “Here I Am”
Songs such as “Weather,” “Love Is Coming” and “My Mind’s Riot” offer ideal examples of its taut emotions and fragile finesse, elements that translate into a soulful exposition overall. Indeed, when Lynne lets loose, as on the effervescent ballads “Revolving Broken Heart,” “Off My Mind,” “The Equation,” and “I Got You,” the music comes across as both timeless and transcendent.
Of course, this is nothing new. A belated Grammy-winner as Best New Artist, her initial statement of purpose, the boldly titled I Am Shelby Lynne, establishing an insurgent stance that left plenty of room to convey kudos to classic music of several varieties. Her tribute to pop singer Dusty Springfield titled Just a Little Lovin’, established the fact that her lineage to past precepts is well established.
Indeed, Lynne has admitted that there are certain similarities between the character she portrays in the film and her own career trajectory. It accounts for the sparse settings and unhurried arrangements, a set-up that puts the spotlight solely on her evocative performances and tarnished emotions. “Here I Am” brings that vulnerability to the fore. “Here I am, No fears, no yesterdays,” she sings to stark sole piano accompaniment while laying her emotions bare. It, like the rest of the album, makes no pretense other than parlaying sentiment and sincerity in equal measure.
For all her remarkable achievements over the course of her 30 plus year career, Shelby Lynne ranks among her most most honest efforts to date. Direct and distinctive, it’s a candid and convincing glimpse into her serpentine soul.