april 2008

Shelby Lynne
Lost Highway

Audacious in all the right ways, Shelby Lynne's Dusty Springfield tribute, Just A Little Lovin', does right by everyone involved, including the artistry of the immortal pop-soul diva being honored herein. Both Lynne and her producer, Phil Ramone, have thrived in lush production environments, but for this project intimacy is all. For Lynne, that means singing from deep inside the songs' emotional freight of hurt, longing and heated desire, as if she were addressing not an audience, but more the image looking back at her in the mirror-interpretive singing has rarely been so deeply personal, so much an interior monologue, as it is in Lynne's aching, nuanced investigation of the heart, whether it's in the near-whispered anguish of Bacharach-David's "Anyone Who Had a Heart," or the sturdy, deliberate, unabashed commitment she announces in "I Only Want To Be With You." For his part, Ramone, whose daunting credits include Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand (for starters), casts Lynne's meditations in low light, backing her not with strings and orchestras but with a small, rootsy combo-electric and acoustic guitars, bass, drums, a keyboard here and there-that can conjure a raw, swampy ambiance for Tony Joe White's backwoods tale, "Willie and Laura Mae Jones," affect a laconic saloon-style blues mode for the title track (one of three songs from the classic Dusty In Memphis album, which has also inspired the cover art here), or summon fresh beauty from the Rascals' evergreen "How Can I Be Sure" in a treatment that features Lynne's swaggering, prove-it vocal backed only by moody, fingerpicked guitar lines designed to underscore an inherent, subsurface melancholy informing her wary inquisition. Beginning with the decision to record mostly lesser known Dusty, everything is right about Just a Little Lovin'. It's a great moment.—David McGee


Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024