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Shelby Lynne

I Am Shelby Lynne

Mercury Records

For those who haven't been poking around Nashville's machine over the last decade, you may think Shelby Lynne a new name. For those who are already familiar, well, you may be in for a surprise. But what you hear won't be Shania-inspired country-lite. Or Brooksian dual personae, singing C&W sans twang. Or even country at all. Alabama's Lynne is taking a different route.

Looking at Lynne's promotional shots reveals a hint or two. Buck-nekkid in a fur coat? Hmmm. And the inside of the advance CD also makes the claim: "You are about to ride naked. And the car is a Cadillac Coupe DeVille '68." Not too many "country" acts present themselves this way. Yet in actuality there isn't too much country about Lynne, a youthful-looking dirty-blond, or this record, which is really just a finely produced comfortable blend of R&B, old Motown and perhaps the stories of a woman a bit worn.

The opening track, "Your Lies," is straight from Phil Spector's book of tricks. And as Lynne's first single it has all the makings of a crossover attempt. The catchy hook, the driven beat. Too bad it's all pulled off well. It leaves a critic nothing much to gripe about.

As on this tune, noticeable borrowings pop up throughout the record. They aren't specific enough to support a plagiarism case, but they're strong. (Two potential plaintiffs would be Sheryl Crow and Rickie Lee Jones, for example.) None of this, however, takes away from Lynne's original arrangements. Some slide guitar, some strings and even a bit of smoke-filled sax find their ways into random numbers. Perhaps these ingredients sound odd, but the record won't.

I Am Shelby Lynne is the work of someone tired of playing the same old game. Full of easy, grooving tunes, the record covers enough ground to make it a CD-changer favorite. And it makes for a great introduction to Lynne.

A country gal at heart, Lynne has experienced heartache firsthand. Her father murdered her mother then turned the gun on himself when Lynne was a young girl. Not one to give in to being a victim artist, Lynne realizes there's a lot more worth singing about than those experiences. Her perspective has helped her to convey her sincere desire to express herself in various ways, be they country, rock or even big-band jazz. Most of what she tries works. Plus, riding around in a Caddy with her isn't so bad an offer.

 
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