I Am Shelby Lynne
Curb / Island Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/10/2000
It's been some time since Shelby Lynne last graced the music bins with her album Temptation. But since she released her latest album I Am Shelby Lynne, people have been falling over themselves to find words of praise about her new work.
I'm sorry, I just can't do that. I admire the fact that Lynne didn't just want to rush back and release some half-assed work to satisfy the suits. I can also appreciate the fact that she wants to break out of the straight-line country music shell. But I Am Shelby Lynne leaves me... well, I am confused.
It would be one thing if Lynne wanted to break from the norm and try a pop career in one, maybe two different styles. Instead, this album is literally all over the board, and it's impossible for the listener to get settled into one genre before Lynne pulls the rug out from under the listener. It is disturbing, and it gets real old, real quick.
The disc opens up with the Cher-meets-Phil Spector "Your Lies," a song that almost seems like it doesn't quite know which way it wants to go. There is more than a smidgen of tentativeness in both the chorus and verses - not quite the way you want to kick things off.
Just when you're able to shake the cobwebs out of the head, Lynne shifts direction to "Leavin'," a song that has a bit of an old doo-wop feel to it. It's a better effort than "Your Lies" - and would have been a nice way for Lynne to continue with the bulk of I Am Shelby Lynne.
Buckle up, sonny - 'cause over the course of the album, Lynne moves to Sheryl Crow-meets-The Band country-rock ("Life Is Bad") to a Sade-meets-Bonnie Raitt groove ("Thought It Would Be Easier") to a more straight-line Raitt style ("Gotta Get Back"). Think you're done? Guess again, sucker.
"Why Can't You Be?" is the first original-sounding track on I Am Shelby Lynne, merging Lynne's country roots with the pop-rock vein in the most pure style to this point. Again, this would have been a decent path for Lynne to follow - except she rejects it on the very next song and goes to an acoustic-based nightclub track ("Lookin' Up") to an almost Burt Bachrach-like arrangement ("Dreamsome")... oh, God, I can't continue.
The thing about this album is, had Lynne limited her explorations to one or two styles, the album as a whole would be more successful. But by jumping styles on every damned track, it seems that either Lynne wants to conquer them all, or she just can't decide which way she wants to go with her music. That's the most disturbing part of I Am Shelby Lynne. Through this musical confusion, the listener is simply frustrated.
I can appreciate that Lynne wants to tread the same paths of success that Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood and others have enjoyed in the pop market. But as I Am Shelby Lynne proves, being too ambitious is not always a good thing.