w/ Danielle Howle, Cary Ann Hearst, Doug Jones
Sat. May 9
Circular Congregational Church
150 Meeting St.
No matter what I write about Shelby Lynne, she probably won’t like it. Journalists have their own thing in mind, she tells me, willy-nillying their words the way they want them, painting their own picture of someone else’s reality.
Fortunately, there’s nothing bad to say about Lynne.
A brief history: Born in rural Alabama, Lynne and her younger sister, Allison Moorer (also a notable songwriter and wife to Steve Earle), were raised by musicians. At 17, the sisters lost both parents to a murder/suicide. After a brief marriage at 18, Lynne brought Allison with her to Nashville, supporting them by singing and playing guitar. By 20, she’d recorded a duet with George Jones.
Lynne won the Academy of Country Music’s “Top New Female Artist” award in 1990, and a “Best New Artist” Grammy 10 years later. Her albums have fluctuated from country to pop to Texas swing. Her latest, 2008’s Just a Little Lovin’, is a smooth, minimalist collection of Dusty Springfield songs.
At 40, Lynne says she’s not concerned about her name being any bigger than it is now.
“The record business, I guess, depending on your take on it, has always been about integrity and great records to me, and having longevity,” she says. “I could have a hit record, but, in the long run, I’d really rather have a pile of great records.”
Our phone conversation occurs soon after Lynne arrived in Texas from her home in California’s Palm Desert. She’s about to meet up with Willie Nelson and Billy Bob Thornton to work on a documentary about Willie’s life.
“I was thinking, ‘I’ve just got the greatest life, waiting to hang out with Willie’,” says Lynne. “I’ve been doing this [playing music] half my life, and I’m thrilled to death about it. I’m very, very appreciative and grateful.”
Lynne’s career broadened in 2005, when she played the role of Carrie Cash in the film Walk the Line. She’s since accepted random roles in television shows, and her Charleston appearance coincides with her current work acting as a new character in Army Wives.
Saturday’s show at the Circular Congregational Church will be Lynne’s first time performing in a place of worship. After the success of Sarah Lee Guthrie’s concert there in February, organizer Dan Henderson (of Suncoast Promotions) had been searching for the next perfect act to book in the space. Lynne says she’ll draw from her older material, new originals from an album in the works, and Dusty Springfield tunes. The band includes guitar, drums, bass, and piano.
“We always rekindle something new. It’ll be a mishmash of whatever we like, whatever we feel,” says Lynne.
That attitude carries over into Lynne’s studio work as well. Since moving to the Lost Highway label with the Dusty album, she’s been enjoying the freedom the label affords her.
“They’re pretty cool to let me do what I’m going to do,” she says. “The record business is really strange these days. Nobody’s buying records, so I just have fun with them. I record because that’s what I do, and that’s what my passion is. I’ve been writing a lot of songs. They’re all different — some country, some pop.”
Although it’s a collection of covers, Just a Little Lovin’ is as good of an example as any of Lynne going her own way. The vocals of Dusty Springfield are impossible to duplicate — her voice, surrounded by dramatic horns and strings, is a timeless sound. But Lynne’s translation of songs like “Breakfast in Bed” adds a new touch of subtlety that’s as genuine as the original recordings. And it’s a good thing too, because, had I written otherwise, she’d likely tell me to kiss her ass at the show. Not that she’d really give a damn.