Shelby Lynne,
I Am Shelby Lynne
(Island, 2000)

This is Shelby Lynne's fifth album release, and the first to break away from country music. Anyone who listens to it and is unfamiliar with her earlier work would have no idea she is a country star. This CD has gained her respect with critics and many music fans who do not pay attention to the Nashville scene. The reason for this is simple. I Am Shelby Lynne is a blue-eyed rhythm and blues album with a dash of real blues thrown in for good measure. The music is Dusty Springfield sprinkled with Bonnie Raitt.

Lynne's vocals are what makes all of these self-penned tunes special. Her voice suits this material perfectly. She can coo like a kitten on "Black Light Blue" or wail like a blues queen on "Life Is Bad." The latter comes complete with a very bluesy slide guitar and vocal style that indicates she may have listened to early Raitt. "Your Lies," which opens the album, sounds just like a good 1960s Top 40 song by the late Springfield. If released as a single back then it most certainly would have been a hit.

"Gotta Get Back," "Thought It Would Be Easier" and "Leavin," are all enjoyable low key R&B songs. The Springfield influence is prevalent on all. The closest Lynne gets to her country roots is on "Where I'm From," her tribute to her home state of Alabama, but even that tune exhibits enough blues touches so as not to be considered a true country song.

If you like your female vocalists to sing with feeling but not sound like one of the many melodramatic divas that have gained notoriety over the last decade, I Am Shelby Lynne is for you.

[ by Charlie Ricci ]

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