Album: Shelby Lynne

Love, Shelby, Mercury
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The Independent Culture

There was a touch of desperation about the way that Shelby Lynne's album I Am Shelby Lynne was acclaimed upon its release in 1999, and this follow-up only partially dispels the suspicion that her pleasant but modest talents have been rather oversold in the desire to distinguish her among the throng of assertive female singer-songwriters that appeared in Alanis Morissette's wake. Shelby's taking few risks here, dumping previous producer Bill Bottrell in favour of Alanis's helmsman Glen Ballard, who also co-writes the bulk of the songs. The results rely heavily on Lynne's blue-eyed soul leanings, which are stretched to cover the trip-hop soul of "Trust Me" and the twitchy Southern funk of "Ain't It The Truth", whose pessimistic message ("Always trying to get ahead/ Next thing you know, you're dead") is garlanded with sawing strings, riffing horns and a Sonny Landreth guitar break. With players like Landreth and Little Feat pianist Bill Payne at her disposal, Shelby copes smoothly with her occasional forays into other genres, notably the rousing Americana of "Jesus on a Greyhound" and the swooning, torch-song balladry of "Tarpoleon Napoleon". But the most ambitious piece here is the sleek but emotional version of Lennon's cri du coeur, "Mother", which closes the album, its ringing guitars and strings punctuated by delicate pizzicato for the "Children, don't do what I have done" section. Still not the full shilling, perhaps, but more impressive than its predecessor.