Shelby Lynne, Royal Festival Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

While her younger sister Allison Moorer has pursued a straightforward career as a country performer, Shelby Lynne has had a more patchwork approach to music, her initial decade as a country artist being followed by her 1999 reinvention as a rhythm and blues singer on I Am Shelby Lynne, and more recently by this year's album of reinterpreted songs from the Dusty Springfield catalogue, Just a Little Lovin'.

Tonight's set opens with songs from I Am Shelby Lynne, starting with "Life is Bad", the bluesy reggae groove sketched out with restraint by her four-piece band, with an intriguing blend of minimal organ chops and bottleneck dobro guitar.

Shelby's strategy on her Dusty covers is akin to the renovation of antique furniture, with the melodramatic orchestrations stripped away to reveal the bare emotional core of each song, whose clean surfaces are then given the thinnest waxing of subtle instrumental tints. "Just a Little Lovin'" is taken slow and soulfully, with several pin-drop pauses, silent lacunae requiring Lynne's pitch-perfect re-entry on difficult notes, each of which she nails with assurance. For her final Springfield cover, Lynne asks the audience to sing along with her on "I Only Want To Be With You" but most of us are holding our breath so as not to break the spell cast by her own voice.

The band are given free rein on a couple of Tony Joe White covers, which allow the players to slip into a swampy country-funk mode reminiscent of Little Feat. But even at their most effusive, there's never any doubt about the instrument which dominates the show, the voice with which Lynne holds the audience in the palm of her hand, soaring effortlessly from a whisper to a scream without breaking a sweat.

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