Shelby Lynne

Shelby Lynne

(LP - Everso Records #72494LP)

Review by Thom Jurek

Though she last released a record of her own with 2015's celebrated I Can't Imagine, singer/songwriter Shelby Lynne kept busy. She cut the sublime covers set Not Dark Yet with sister Allison Moorer. She also worked with producer, director, and screenwriter Cynthia Mort on an as-yet-unreleased film entitled When We Kill the Creators. Lynne stars as a world-weary singer trying to navigate the choices between commercial success and her own creativity. This self-titled album evolved out of that project. Half its lyrics were penned by Mort, and Lynne plays most of the instruments herself: guitar, bass, drums, synth, even a rudimentary saxophone on "My Mind's Riot." She did enlist help a handful of pianists including Mimi Freidman, Benmont Tench, Ed Roth, and Billy Mitchell on various tracks.

Despite the homegrown, intimate quality of the record, it's quite disciplined. As a songwriter, Lynne's knowledge and authoritative use of classic L.A. pop, sophisticated soul, the jazz song tradition, rhythm & blues, and roots rock, are formidable. "Strange Things" is a nocturnal, suffocatingly intimate jazzy blues with searing lyrics by Mort: "The clumsiness of it/The fumbling, crashing, fuck of it/The bandaged mess/The worn, torn angel scars … Love keeps us crawling…." But Lynne reaffirms love and commitment in "I Got You," the very next song. Here, Dusty Springfield's influence is evident. Her rhythmic, slipstream phrasing hovers elegantly in and around Tench's Wurlitzer. It addresses her beloved with unflinching commitment and desire. "Love Is Coming," co-written with Mort, is almost uncomfortably vulnerable with its "Walk on the Wild Side" bassline, lilting guitars, and piano. This is a Shelby Lynne we have heard from only selectively. The back-to-back "Weather" and "Revolving Broken Heart" are confessional songs about being bereft and left in the zero by a now absent lover, with graceful, glacial tempos and minimal arrangements, Lynne's voice offers painful truths. First single "Don’t Believe in Love" cut with her road band, offers a breathless, heartbreaking lyric penned by Mort atop a swinging, gentle pop rocker that hearkens back to Lynne's widely acclaimed I Am Shelby Lynne. On "Here I Am," her only accompaniment is Mitchell's piano. It's a slow, declamatory anthem with gospel overtones. Mort's poetic lyric is right at home in Lynne's mouth pouring out like cool, clear water. She imbues it with a meaning understood by anyone who has loved unselfishly. This is the album Lynne's hinted at for a decade. It's life-affirming in expressing romantic obsession and doubt, loneliness and fear, desire and steely commitment. Lynne's protagonists are stark naked in voicing their wounds and wants, whether they be emotional, spiritual, and/or physical. Shelby Lynne is a profound meditation on amorous complexity and cost; it's arguably the most powerful record in the songwriter's catalog.

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