The title of this album says it all really. Ever since her first album, back in the late ’80s, Shelby Lynne has taken an uncertain path from country girl to soul diva to pop chick, culminating in the over-produced mess that was the 2001 Love Shelby album. But, having backed herself into a stylistic cul-de-sac, Shelby has now come home, metaphorically speaking, with an album that finds her revisiting her country roots, but also stretching out on some bluesy rockers and delicate acoustic ballads.
She’s also shunned the extravagant production methods of Glen Ballard, producer of the last album, in favour of a stripped-down, bare and, dare I say, “Unplugged” approach that allows the 12 self-composed tracks room to breathe. The one exception is the string-soaked Lonesome, a good old-fashioned, after-hours Nashville tearjerker that’s not intended, you feel, to be taken entirely seriously.
Elsewhere there’s a distinctly old-fashioned country twang to Buttons And Beaus and a gentle, gospel flavour to 10 Rocks, the latter enlivened, as is much of the album, by the keyboard work of ex-Little Feat stalwart Bill Payne.
Evil Man and Gotta Be Better rock out in the manner of Bonnie Raitt or Sheryl Crow on a particularly good day while the opening track, Telephone, has a pleasing, shuffling groove and is enhanced by a laconic jazz-guitar break.
It’s on the slower numbers however – If I Were Smart, I Don’t Think So and I Will Stay – that this new-found maturity of expression is most obvious.
Clearly the two years since the last album have involved much soul-searching, and Shelby has also suffered more than her fair share of family tragedy, so there’s clearly a cathartic aspect to this album. As confessionals go it’s not up there with Blood On The Tracks, the Plastic Ono Band or Still Crazy After All These Years, but it’s not far off.
One thing’s for sure: as a statement of intent from an artist regarded, not so long ago, as being in terminal decline, this is one hell of a comeback as well as being, by some distance, the best album she’s ever recorded.