Shelby Lynne gets naked on Revelation Road
Published: January 24, 2012
Shelby Lynne doesn't care about image or marketing. She will drop an emphatic F-bomb while making a point, or perhaps note her feature in High Times. Of course, after a life marked by tragedy (her father killed her mother in front of her eyes) and a career that started with a bang (she won a Grammy as Best New Artist in 2000, even though she already had six albums), Lynne's her own person, something readily apparent in her creative and business decisions across her career.
Her passion's always been palpable, and she possesses a brash, no-bullshit attitude that popped up when this reporter asked a demonstrably stupid question. Perhaps that's what's most striking about her — how awfully damn real she is in a business built on glitz and glad-handing, displaying heartfelt earnestness without sliding into smug self-seriousness.
"I write whatever the hell I want," said Lynne, who will perform an acoustic show at Gruene Hall on January 28. "[I have] nothing in mind but to write a good song that touches me so people can be touched by it when I sing it to them. There's no sitting down and having meetings with everyone, 'I want everyone to be serious.' Because it's not serious. It's music. It's art. It's fun," she says in her sonorous Southern twang. "People like me, we're driven by music and putting words down, trying to create a unique way of saying, 'I love you back.'"
Lynne is supporting October's Revelation Road, possibly her most personal album in more ways than one. She wrote, played, produced, and released the album entirely herself, representing the culmination of a natural evolution from when she first emerged 24 years ago, though the desire to make music goes back to Lynne's childhood.
"I was pretty much born to do this, I've known it in my heart," she says. "I don't think I've known anything more wholeheartedly in my life as that. When I first started out I was a kid, I just wanted to sing and be famous, like Tammy Wynette. So the songwriting was something else that came out of a desire, a wanting of something to say through music."
She set out from the start to make Revelation Road wholly herself. She'd self-produced since 2003's Identity Crisis (notably the beginning of a string of critically acclaimed releases), but has never done something like this. As the title suggests, the songs are rife with flashes of insight.
Lynne declares she won't let fear guide her on the jazzy cocktail swing of "Lead Me Love," bids her "Woebegone" on the traditional country tune after laying awake in bed contemplating her culpability, and shrugs her shoulders, "I don't know why it's broke… my heart just told me now's the time to frown," on the endearing downcast but ambling roots rocker, "I Don't Need A Reason To Cry."
The album's most powerful moment belongs to "Heaven's Only Days Down the Road," a devastating portrait of a man masterminding his own apocalypse. Moving to a menacing bluesy riff and percolating rhythm, it pans from liquor store to loaded gun, as she sings, "full of regret, and I haven't even pulled the trigger yet." It concludes with a harrowing admission: "Can't blame the whiskey or my Mammy's ways/ two little girls are better off this way," and, after the refrain, two conclusive gunshots.
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