Thursday, November 6, 2014
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: SHELBY LYNNE - I AM SHELBY LYNNE (Deluxe Edition)
One of my favourite albums of the past, oh, 20 years or so, this was a surprise hit for the former country singer. Lynne had been around a decade trying to fit into the Nashville structure. Then with the aid of producer Bill Bottrell, she made the album she really wanted, which was a truly Southern one. When it came out in 1999, it was such a radical departure from her decade of major label country albums, she won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, even though she had made the Top 40 with previous work.
The big difference was Lynne being allowed to write songs that featured all her influences, coming from Alabama. There was soul, rock, country, swamp, that sultry mix that Elvis first popularized, and all the Mussel Shoals folks knew, Al Green too. There was a whole lot of Dusty In Memphis in it, and some deeply personal lyrics that only hinted at the dark side of her life.
Since it was the best soul album of the year from an unlikely source, Lynne's back story became part of the intrigue as well. She and her sister, the similar country singer Allison Moorer, had endured a horrible moment when their father murdered their mother. Once you knew that, moments in her songs suddenly became obvious and heart-breaking, and you had to question Lynne's tough exterior as well. It then seemed a survival instinct.
This anniversary edition of the CD has lots of great bonus material. The main album is fleshed out by six previously-unreleased cuts from the sessions, all of them equally deserving of space on the record. Two in particular spoke volumes, more than any on the album proper; Sky Is Purple is all about the shooting, and MIss You Sissy is about her relationship with Moorer. The second disc here is a fantastic 90 minute concert from Los Angeles's House of Blues, taped shortly after the album's release. There is not one reference to her previous country career. Instead, she and the band do the entire new album, some of the unreleased stuff, and covers of Wichita Lineman and John Lennon's Mother, the latter song going on to be included in her next release, Love Shelby. This is exactly what you want from a Deluxe edition, as it makes a great album even better.