The one certainty in Shelby Lynne's long, labyrinthine career is that she remains as mercurial and unpredictable in the 21st century as when she entered the business in the 1980s. She has recorded in many different genres -- country, R&B, blues, pop, rock, Western Swing, and more -- and made hybrids of others, yet has remained an artist true to no path but her own. Her 2011 album, Revelation Road, was universally acclaimed for all the right reasons: completely self-written and recorded, it told her story and addressed her ghosts directly, unflinchingly, and sometimes with harrowing precision. Thanks is a tight, five-song EP, just a shade over 15 minutes that offers a new dimension to that story. Lynne recruited co-producer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Peeler, drummer Michael Jerome, bassist Ed Maxwell, and the great Maxine Waters as backing vocalist and pianist on a collection of original, Americana gospel songs recorded at her Rancho Mirage home studio. Opener and single "Call Me Up" evokes the spirit and influence of Mahalia Jackson, but is no mere tribute with its bluesy, roiling weave of Lynne's strummed acoustic six-string, Peeler's mandolin and Weissenborn guitar, Waters' gospel piano, and a backing vocal chorus. Lynne's singing is full of spiritual conviction. "Forevermore," with its Wurlitzer, lap steel, and layered backing vocals, evokes the feel of early Bonnie Raitt in its sweeping emotion, and is again balanced by a near devotional backing chorus. "Walkin'" touches on Sister Rosetta Tharpe, with pedal steel, strutting acoustic guitars and rhythms, and a fingerpopping swing groove. "The Road I'm On" would have been perfect on Revelation Road. Its haunted narrative allows Lynne's ghosts their place alongside her on her journey -- even when it becomes confusing, burdensome, and lonely. Through it all, however, is an unshakeable faith. The meld of acoustic guitars, piano, and percussion atmospherically adorn her vocal and buoy it in the lyric. The title track is modern country-gospel at its best; joyous, yet focused and sober. Despite its brevity, Lynne displays how inseparable the threads of faith and gratitude are on Thanks. She takes the difficult personal narrative detailed on Revelation Road and poetically extends its boundary to embrace acceptance and hope.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek