Shelby Lynne is a singer/songwriter whose music is almost impossible to label in a particular genre. Lynne spent years trying to fit in the Nashville music scene, but thankfully, she evolved from the Nashville ‘spit and polish’ into more of a post outlaw renegade who has a lot to say about the human condition. AXS was able to catch her solo performance at the Rialto Theatre on April 3. Here are the reasons you should experience a Shelby Lynne performance.
1) It is Shelby Lynne, ya’ll
Lynne has spent many years polishing her craft. That is a craft of capturing your undivided attention with a voice that does not have to scream to deliver her message. Intimacy is established early in the show and it does not let go until the last note of the last song. There were many ‘pin-drop’ moments during the show. The torchy element in her delivery draws you into her world and that is undeniable. The experience was quietly devastating.
2) Lynne is an extraordinary songwriter
You may not know her personally, but once you connect to her song lyrics there is a sense of knowing her very well. Personal revelations are ample and given freely. Her eponymous album I Am Shelby Lynne won her critical acclaim and a Grammy Award at the time it was released. The set had five songs from that album that included “Leavin’” the song that opened the set. “Where I’m From” is an ode to her Alabama upbringing. “Black Light Blue” is as good of a blues song ever written.
Lynne best described her songwriting during the set when she said, “I think I learned a long time ago that when I’m hurtin’ and when I got to say something, I pick up the box (her guitar) and I let this do the talking.” She was referring to writing “Johnny Met June.” It was obvious that writing is her catharsis and it works.
3) Her songs about family
Those who are in the Shelby Lynne circle of fans are aware of her tragic circumstances experienced in her teens with her younger sister, Allison Moorer. Lynne does not want to be defined by that event. She grew up in a musical family and has written songs about her family. “Following You” is a song written about her ‘daddy’ with a lyric “following you even though you don’t know where your going” lingers long after she sings the song. “She Knows Where She Goes” was written for her mama. She announced, “This is dedicated to all the mamas. Lord knows we’ve all got one.”
She later revealed, “I made a record with my baby sister, Not Dark Yet. “I’ll Hold Your Head” is a song I wrote about her because I missed her. We write about each other. When we hear the songs, we call and say, ‘Hey I heard that song you wrote about me.’ The song is an intimate portrayal of their life as they grew up. There is still plenty of country spirit in her soul.
4) Guitarist, Ben Peeler
Lynne has always surrounded herself with outstanding musicians. The band tonight was expert fingerpicking an acoustic guitar and lap guitar player, Ben Peeler. Peeler is the former lead guitarist for the Mavericks but that does not define him. He has been supporting Lynne for several years. His guitar is amazing without showing off. He had ample opportunity to dazzle the crowd with his talent and it did not go unnoticed. He seemed to be a perfect fit for an otherwise solo show.
5) Lynne is one of many popular artists to emerge from Alabama
She is among many including Hank Williams, Nat King Cole, Wilson Pickett, Emmylou Harris, Lionel Richie to mention a few. Newer popular artists include Jason Isbell and Alabama Shakes. Does Alabama offer fertile ground for creativity to flourish? Or does it foster an atmosphere that causes creativity to be a means of escape from reality? Lynne certainly has an opinion on that. Her songs are gut-wrenching statements about her life at times. Blues is a major musical influence in her shows and that is not a bad thing. One almost feels like you are eavesdropping on a private conversation when Lynne sings.
For a complete set list, please click here.