Trying To Get To You

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Harmlessness Of Shelby Lynne

I haven’t paid much attention to Shelby Lynne in years, since her 2001 “disaster,” the Glen Ballard produced Love, Shelby. I think I might have listened to Identity Crisis, her 2003 release on Capitol a couple of times and then forgot all about it. I had been a fan of I Am Shelby Lynne, her 1999 album that won her a Best New Artist Grammy, despite the fact that she had been signed by Epic Nashville in the late 80’s. (Another example of the stupidity of the Grammys.) I Am… reminded me of a modern Dusty Springfield record in its combination of both earthy and dramatic tones that occurred on occasion as diva-worthy.

So when I heard via the New York Times that Shelby Lynne’s new album, Just A Little Lovin’, is a collection of songs inspired and made famous by Dusty Springfield, I became momentarily excited. But unfortunately, while the album is eminently tasteful, it is a thorough bore. Lynne’s (and producer Phil Ramone’s) arrangements are striking only in their lack of risk and originality; the drama, risk and vulnerability that Springfield sang with is instead replaced by an overwhelming sterility, a celebration of “good taste” that does not even approach the realm of soulfulness. It is utterly harmless music.

Lynne fancies herself a rebel who bucked the conventions of Nashville and has a deluded sense that it makes her a superior artist. What it makes her instead is a snob who uses her commercial failures to justify her utterly false notions of what it is to be a rebel. Perhaps this album will be the commercial breakthrough that she has been looking for for the better part of two decades – but most likely, it will be another chapter of a career in which the artist comforts her own missteps by saying to herself, “They don’t get it,” instead of asking, “What’s missing in my music that could make a difference?”

If you don't have Dusty In Memphis, buy it immediately. But Just A Little Lovin' is one of the most unnecessary albums I've heard in years.


Michael Verity said...

I'm not surprised she's remade herself (AGAIN), this time wearing the cloak of Dusty Springfield. In fact, I'm surprised it's taken this long. I've enjoyed a few of her songs here and there ("Telephone" and "10 Rocks" to name two), but I've never seen her as anything but a modernized Dusty wannabee. And the mantle of "rebel," save for her storied arguments with her record companies, has never been at all in evidence. Not when, as my wife pointed out, she's onstage covering The Rolling Stones while wearing a $200 t-shirt.

Anonymous said...

Sad to hear it. After I Am Shelby Lynne, I was rooting for her. By now I've given up. Your comments are spot on regarding her flaws.

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