This Is Shelby LynneBy Bill DeMain
When Entertainment Weekly announced its Best Albums of 2000, here’s what it said about Shelby Lynne: "Ten songs that transform shattered relationships and substance abuse into sweet, redemptive soul; production values so subtle that three-chord tunes morph into lush symphonies of sound; and an angelic voice with enough sex and bluesy grit to charm the devil are what make this album the runaway choice for No. 1.”
And the top honor was richly deserved. This Alabama native has distilled her life's tragedies and triumphs into a gutsy, gorgeous work of art. When she was a teenager, Lynne watched as her father shot her mother and then turned the gun on himself, leaving her in charge of her younger sister. With half her heart filled with a passion for music and the other half riding an adrenaline rush of rebellion, Shelby Lynne hit Nashville as an already divorced 19-year-old -- untamed and unwilling to follow country music’s rigid rules.
She recorded a hit duet with George Jones and made five albums that sold poorly before deciding to pack it up and head home to Alabama again. Woodshedding with producer Bill Bottrell, she vowed make the album she’d wanted to make her whole life. Part classic country, part Dusty Springfield, part Aretha Franklin, This Is Shelby Lynne is as near perfect a record as you're likely to hear -- a throwback of sorts for older listeners, yet a blast of fresh air for younger ones.
The opening strains of the first track, "Your Lies," come crashing through the speakers with a flood of swirling strings, as symphonic and dramatic as some of Phil Spector’s best work. From then on, each song mines a different emotion and style -- from the hushed resignation of "Leavin" to the bluesy midnight musings of "Black Light Blue." This album earned Lynne a Grammy for Best New Artist, an irony that wasn’t lost on the performer.