Shelby Lynne ‘I Am Shelby Lynne’

 

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#823 in the Series) is Shelby Lynne, I Am Shelby Lynne

Shelby Lynne had been a recording artist for quite a while by the time this album came out but I think it’s fair to say that things hadn’t been going quite the way she would have liked up until that point. It seemed the time was right for her to take control, make a stand, and get things back on track. Hence the title of this, quite wonderful, album: I Am Shelby Lynne, a definitive statement if ever there was one. It was actually her sixth album, although the first in almost five years, and not so much a comeback as a complete creative, and ultimately critical, rebirth.

And that’s the kind of story I like, when an artist who’s seemingly had their shot, gave it their best but faded away, manages to come storming back and deliver a knockout blow, proving their worth all over again. Think Elvis in the late 60’s maybe or Johnny Cash on his work with Rick Rubin. There are, of course, many other examples.

Shelby’s  career  started with aplomb, recording a Top 50 hit duet with George Jones in 1988, and she was earmarked for great things by Epic Records, her debut album was even produced by the legendary producer Billy Sherrill, a revered name in Country music circles. Her next effort gave her good placing on the Country chart but subsequent releases saw diminishing returns and the style wasn’t one she was entirely comfortable with, the slick country-pop sound which dominates mainstream Nashville to this day. Some call it bland, I prefer not to talk about it at all. I would like to stress at this point that some of this stuff was damn good incidentally, lest you get the wrong idea. Have a listen to (for example) “Tell Me I’m Crazy” and you’ll hear a great torch song, delivered in fine Patsy Cline style. Shelby was actually a wonderful talent even back then. It’s just that, well, she got BETTER. Fifth album “Restless” only crept into the Top 75 and by 1998 she hadn’t released anything in 4 years, time for a rethink.

Enter : Bill Bottrell.

Now, I’m the first to admit that before doing a spot of reading up on this album recently I knew next to nothing about Bill Bottrell. I knew he was the man who produced, and co-wrote much of, Sheryl Crow’s  debut album Tuesday Night Music Club because it’s a real favourite of mine but beyond that I was clueless. Turns out though that he has been a very busy and successful chap over the years, not to mention a very talented one, working with the likes of Michael Jackson, Madonna, Elton John and Tom Petty and winning some Grammy awards in the process, not a bad CV by any standards!

He came onboard for this one and certainly earned his corn, not only does he produce the album but he’s listed as a co-writer on most of the songs and plays on many of them as well, contributing on umpteen different instruments. I think it’s fair to say  that it’s very much collaboration on equal terms, his input was certainly key to this work. And as for Shelby Lynne herself, she produced a masterful affirmation of her talents and a reinvention which completely transformed her career!

I Am Shelby Lynne sounds nothing like her previous work, there’s merely a hint of “country” for a start and it’s mainly  a modern, soulful/bluesy record for the most part. Opener “Your Lies” comes sweeping in on the strength of strings, tale of a deceived lover and it’s apparent already that there’s something special here. The first time I heard “Leavin’ ” I was convinced that Aretha had popped into the studio for a guest appearance, of course she hadn’t and it’s all Shelby, what a vocal. Actually, two vocals for the price of one ! You’ll know what I mean when you hear it, amazing stuff.

“Life Is Bad” struts and slides, sounding very much like something from the aforementioned Sheryl Crow album, in a good way, of course.

“Why Can’t You Be ?” has a sexy, southern feel to it, “Dreamsome” so laid-back it almost isn’t there, repeat plays reveal a subtle gem which builds gently and gets addictive.

Near the end, “Where I’m From” may well be my favourite song on the album, the sound of a long, lazy & languid evening on a porch in Alabama, fireflies buzzing, very evocative stuff.

What it all amounted to, as previously mentioned, and was a fantastic reinvention and a complete turnaround for Shelby’s career. Incredibly, after six albums and 13 years in the business, she won the Grammy in 2001 for “Best New Artist!” That is quite an achievement.

She didn’t stop there, now rejuvenated she went on to craft some fine work indeed, Shelby Lynne is one of those artists who simply doesn’t seem capable of making a bad record.

Her sister, Alison Moorer is a fine musician in her own rite, married to Americana legend Steve Earle. And Shelby,well I consider this the finest album of the lady’s career to date, a real treat which you would do well to seek out.

– Stephen Dalrymple, Glasgow, Scotland

Track Listing

  1. “Your Lies” (Bill Bottrell, Shelby Lynne) — 2:54
  2. “Leavin'” (Lynne) — 3:11
  3. “Life Is Bad” (Bottrell, Fritz, Lynne) — 3:18
  4. “Thought It Would Be Easier” (Bottrell, Lynne) 3:55
  5. “Gotta Get Back” (Bottrell, Lynne, Overstreet) — 3:37
  6. “Why Can’t You Be?” (Bottrell, Lynne) — 4:19
  7. “Lookin’ Up” (Bottrell, Lynne) — 3:28
  8. “Dream Some” (Joyce, Lynne, Overstreet) — 4:12
  9. “Where I’m From” (Bottrell, Lynne) — 3:49
  10. “Black Light Blue” (Bottrell, Lynne) — 3:23

Personnel

  • Shelby Lynne — acoustic guitar, guitar, electric guitar, vocals, background vocals, clapping, stomping
  • Bill Bottrell — organ, bass, guitar, harmonica, percussion, pedal steel, drums, keyboards, vocals, background vocals, 12 string guitar, snare drums, clapping, stomping
  • Jameson Brandt — string contractor
  • Greg d’Augenlli — flute, horn, keyboards, string bass
  • George Del Barrio — arranger, conductor, string arrangements
  • Roger Fritz — dobro, guitar, slide guitar, slide mandolin
  • Jay Joyce — organ, bass, guitar, keyboards
  • Dorothy Overstreet — drums, snare drums

Check out Shelby from “CBS This Morning”

Posted by Larry Carta

4 Comments

  1. Louis Richardson (11 Jan 2013, 14:11)
    Reply

    I first heard this album at one of those “listening stations” at Borders. I listened to about a minute of “Your Lies”, put down the headphones, picked up 2 copies of the disc, and went to the checkout counter. The second copy was for my girlfriend at the time. I thought she would enjoy it, but she couldn’t get over the cover photo. She told me that any guy who would buy a CD with a sexy picture of a hot chick on the cover for his girlfriend was kind of clueless. Oh well.
    Hearing the opening of “Your Lies”, the question that immediately popped into my head was, “Why on earth isn’t there more music like this!?” The way that the strings interact with the guitar leads. Just beautiful. This one has definitely stood the test of time for me too. I’ve enjoyed most of Shelby Lynne’s subsequent albums, but none as much as this one.

  2. Stephen dalrymple (12 Jan 2013, 19:22)
    Reply

    It’s a special album Louis that’s for sure, and as for that girl’s reaction, how shallow ! My wife drools over Elvis 68 black leather suit, doesn’t stop ME enjoying the music !
    Thanks for the feedback my friend.

  3. Eric Berman (13 Jan 2013, 0:06)
    Reply

    Great song. Love the production!

  4. Jeb Hoge (14 Jan 2013, 12:06)
    Reply

    Interesting side story to the Bill Bottrell connection that I read about in an interview around when AISL came out. Apparently, both Shelby and Sheryl Crow ended up hating Bottrell by the ends of their respective collaborations with him. It’s probably not coincidence that Shelby & Sheryl dueted at the Grammies.

    Also, Shelby’s record “Temptation” is a gem in itself. It’s where I first heard her and I remember the hoopla in Nashville when it came out, because NO ONE had put together a record quite like it in a very long time and NO ONE expected it from her. I saw her perform tracks from it, live, on an open-air stage in downtown Nashville in front of thousands, and she was electric.



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