May 11, 2005

Shelby Lynn

I’ll bet many of you have no idea that buried on the 2000 soundtrack to the Bridget Jones movie is one of the greatest pop songs ever recorded, and from an unlikely source. Shelby Lynne teamed up with uber-pop producer Glen Ballard to write and record “Killin’ Kind,” a loved-up, achin’-for-you tribute to great sixties hits. That song probably stands in the top 5 songs that make me happiest – it never fails, particularly in the last minutes of multi-tracked harmony bliss. It’s hard to believe, for me anyway, that Shelby Lynn has this song in her, but she did and it makes you wonder how many souls live in the one tiny woman.

I had previously seen her live, opening for someone else, and was fascinated by her I’ll-drink-you-under-the-table-and-then-I will-fuck-you-blue stage persona. Her banter was like a celebration of country roadhouse/Vegas cheese, but the music was really great live. She comes across a hard-livin’ woman and if you’ve read her tragic life story, you’ll know why. Her breakthrough 1999 CD I Am Shelby Lynn was impressive: a mix of Bonnie Raitt, Dusty Springfield and Elvis Presley. She covered so much ground in ten songs, it was like she’d put her whole life’s experience into that one disc. If I’d decided to embark on a cheesy afternoon-eight affair at a local Motel 6, this record would have been the soundtrack! Note how cheaply you can get this in Amazon Marketplace – quality is not a correlation to price on this one.

She followed up with the more pop-heavy Love, Shelby a record that was overproduced but still really great (and included “Killin” Kind” in the 10-song mix). The album was a flop, a fact I partially blame on the horrifying on-her-knees sex kitten cover that was totally wrong for her. Had there been a different cover and set of accompanying images, I think people would have taken it more seriously.

Then she disappeared, bobbed her hair, and returned with an album in 2003, Identity Crisis, that was recorded in her home. Spare little songs that, with the exception of “Telephone” and a few others, left me bored. The spark was gone: no soaring harmonies and no OTT passion. People even report that she was a mess on stage for the performances at that time. Shelby releases a new record called Suit Yourself on May 24 and you can check out the sampler and read about the album here. This one is also being described as spare, but I hope we get a little more of her trademark “gritty elegance” than we did last time around. I love that it has a song called “Iced Tea” –how Southern!

Shelby's website and watch a video about the making of the new CD.

Shelby’s sister Allison Moorer is supremely talented as well. Check her out. Speaking of CD covers, her image for the Hardest Part album is really beautiful.

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