- The Washington Times - Monday, May 23, 2005

Shelby Lynne

Suit Yourself

Capitol Records

“My back porch is not a grand location,” Shelby Lynne announces on a cut from her new album, “Suit Yourself.”

Maybe not.

Yet the disc — officially Miss Lynne’s ninth, but just the third since 2000’s watershed “I Am Shelby Lynne” — often sounds as if it were recorded on a back porch, and the music, a winning cocktail of blues, R&B; and folk-pop, couldn’t be grander.

Working with musicians such as keyboardist Benmont Tench and legendary country-rock singer-songwriter Tony Joe White, Miss Lynne recorded a proper studio album in Nashville, where for many years — her debut came out in 1989 — she struggled to find a focus for her restless eclecticism.

On several songs here, she purposely left the fingerprints of home-recording demos and studio chatter on the finished product, lending “Suit Yourself” a tone and texture even more stripped down than on 2003’s excellent “Identity Crisis.”

Not that the songs, in their completed state, bear much polish. “You Don’t Have a Heart” boasts raw, Keith Richards-style guitar chords. “Go With It” and “I Cry Everyday” have the warmth and immediacy of Muscle Shoals-era soul and R&B.; The Lyle Lovett-inspired country-blues of “You’re the Man,” cinched by Robby Turner’s supple Dobro playing, is one-take playful. A cover of Mr. White’s classic “Rainy Night in Georgia” (identified namelessly as “Track 12”) rambles on for a sleepy, searching 71/2 minutes.

Albums as unvarnished as this — mostly acoustic, without a lot of bells and whistles — are often vehicles for confessional unburdening. “Suit Yourself” has its moments of first-person malaise, but Miss Lynne, who seems to pay great attention to intertwining her lyrics and melodies, wears her heart in her chest, rather than on her sleeve.

“Where Am I Now” hints at woes of dislocation and a longing for “the safety net of home.” “I Cry Every Day” sounds too sex-kittenish to be literally true. “Johnny Met June” perhaps anticipates Miss Lynne’s role as Johnny Cash’s mother in the forthcoming biopic “Walk the Line” — but not really: It’s Miss Lynne’s real-life reflection on hearing the news of Mr. Cash’s passing.

The quiet masterpiece of the album, “Sleep,” makes poetry out of a need for some shut-eye. A weary Miss Lynne pleads for a night’s rest while plainly asking for relief from waking-hour anxieties. (“A pillow made from my momma’s womb” — how does that sound to your aching bones?)

“Suit Yourself” comes four years after Miss Lynne’s well-intentioned swing at mainstream success, the Glen Ballard-produced “Love, Shelby.” In this business, it’s often said that a hit-seeking album like that is less “honest” than the casual-sounding fare of “Suit Yourself.”

In this case, the rock-press cliche is essentially true: Shelby Lynne made the album she wanted to make. If you don’t like it, suit yourself.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide