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I am Shelby Lynne

music reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: I am Shelby Lynne

Artist: Shelby Lynne
Genre: Country
Release Date: January 2000

Review by LarryG
2½ stars out of 4

When I Am Shelby Lynne came out in early 2000, the buzz was almost deafening. It was the best country record of the year. In fact, it wasn't really a country record at all since it had lots of rock and r&b flavor. Well, I Am Shelby Lynne is a country record. But it is a darn good one. In the past, Lynne has tried to make standard country records like the bland, carefully packaged, market targeted work that tops the country charts, mixing country and 70's style glossy pop. On her new CD, Lynne sounds like she's doing what she wants to do and it sounds good. Lynne is a country singer but she's added the sound of baby boomer friendly pop rock. It's not a coincidence that Bill Bottrell, who has produced music for a queen of the genre Sheryl Crow, cowrote most of the songs, played a lot of the instruments and produced I Am Shelby Lynne. Lynne especially seems like Crow on a couple leisurely, down and dirty country rockers. Life is Bad is fun and loose with handclap percussion. Why Can't You Be tries a little too hard for a grungy languor but the song advising a guy to relax is still charming. I don't want to overwork the Sheryl Crow analogy. Besides having a southern accent, Lynne is different in that her music is generally pretty mellow. I Am Shelby Lynne is a well made and very listenable if not incredibly exciting record.

I Am Shelby Lynne gets off to a stunningly good start with Your Lies. It sounds like a remake of some sort of Patsy Cline classic but, like everything on the record, was actually written by Lynne. Your Lies, about being haunted by an ex-lover, starts with a cascade of Bottrell's drums and then the strings sweep in. Lynne's aching vocal and Bottrell's minimal but piercing guitar add to the powerful effect. I Am Shelby Lynne never reaches sound such epic heights again but it's always quite enjoyable. Leavin', about finally getting the courage to walk away from an unworthy mate, tries for a 70's r & b sound and basically succeeds with a nice spare sound. Lynne sounds a little silly on a spoken intro but sounds appropriately soulful doing her own backup vocals. She similarly achieves a good, easy atmosphere, if not much energy, and even has a touch of Aretha in her voice on Thought It Would Be Easier. That song flows easily into the alike but more lively Gotta Get Back. Gotta Get Back's sunny mood is probably due to it being the only happy love song on the record. It even has an optimistic harmonica solo in the middle.

I Am Shelby Lynne ends with a few simple, ungimmicky songs. The sad ballad Lookin' Up isn't much but Lynne's voice shines in an uncluttered setting. Dreamsome is more interesting with delicate keyboards and a flute creating an appropriately dreamy mood. Where I'm From, with Lynne singing about never getting too far "from the Alabama frame of mind", is the most country song on the record and also one of the best. It has a relaxed, positive mood and also has the record's most specific and evocative lyrics. I Am Shelby Lynne ends with the very minimal Black Light Blue. It's not bad since Lynne's voice is strong enough to work in a torch song but even ignoring its low points(like rhyming Black Light Blue with cock-a-doodle-do), the song isn't quite strong enough to support its ambitions.

I Am Shelby Lynne is a good, easy record. The sound is generally clean and targeted towards a mature adult audience. Lynne is a good singer. Lynne presents herself as a stronger person than her lyrics might make you think. She still seems to be finding herself but she's grown as a writer as she's found a more comfortable style.



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