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Music Review: Shelby Lynne – Tears, Lies, and Alibis

Surround yourself with the best talent available and you’re bound to learn something. Shelby Lynne seems to have picked up a few pointers from Phil Ramone, the production genius behind Just A Little Lovin’, Lynne’s 2008 tribute to Dusty Springfield. She produced this outing herself, and the sound is superb, with impeccable arrangements that leave lots of space for the hushed intimacy of her delivery.

Lynne wrote everything here, and really, there’s nothing that wouldn’t have fit in quite nicely on her last outing. It’s blue-eyed soul of exquisite taste and restraint, with backing stripped to the bare essentials. And Lynne shows absolute mastery, caressing every line with a just-right mix of beguiling innocence and smoldering sensuality.

Lynne mines the everyday for subject material, with intensely personal, and sometimes rather quirky, observations on life and love. From the inherent incongruity of “Rains Came” (a happy song about sadness) to the celebration of the simple on “Something To Be Said,” there’s simply not a weak song in the bunch. “Why Didn’t You Call Me” is bouncy, breezy pop concealing hidden heartbreak, but “Like A Fool” is a penetrating look at how we deceive ourselves for love, framed with stark simplicity. “Family Tree” bristles with anger (Lynne’s own family history is very dark indeed), and “Old #7” is pure honky-tonk at its core, a plea for the blissful if temporary oblivion that only alcohol can offer to a broken heart. Lynne wraps it all up with “Home Sweet Home,” a hesitant but heartfelt paean to the comfort of returning to the people and places that matter the most.

With basic tracks recorded in her own home studio, Lynne travelled to Nashville to enlist assistance from the likes of living legends Spooner Oldham (Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer) and bassist David Hood, both pillars of the classic Muscle Shoals sound. But while backing is impeccable throughout, this is definitely a songwriter’s project, and it’s Lynne’s unflinchingly candid observations and emotional vulnerability that take center stage.

A remarkable collection, this one shows Lynne is just as skilled behind the glass as she is in front of a microphone, and reveals a writer of uncommon depth with a flair for memorable melodies. Very highly recommended!

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