By 1999, Shelby Lynne had been around for some time, releasing five albums in the process. It was her sixth album, I Am Shelby Lynne that first garnered her attention, however. The breakout work earned her a Grammy Award for Best New Artist, showing that sometimes it takes the mainstream a little longer to catch up to everyone else. In honor of its 15th anniversary, the album has been rereleased with bonus tracks and a live DVD.
While Lynne had previously done more traditional country music, I Am Shelby Lynne mixes in a blue-eyed soul approach. Lynne's voice is high in the mix, adding an intimacy to the recordings as if she was in the room with you. Its opening track, "Your Lies," evokes the Wall of Sound and early 1970s John Lennon with its big, noisy production. Lynne gives an emotional vocal over this strong opener filled with killer harmonies.
Lynne gives a breathy, spoken word intro ala Barry White to "Leavin'," a slow-burning ode to classic 1970s soul. Subtle guitars and strings blend with a drum machine, giving the song a classic and modern feel at once. Lynne continues the laid-back soul approach on "Thought It Would Be Easier," a smooth track that shows off her vocal prowess.
Lynne has garnered comparisons to Sheryl Crow and the similarities are evident on the strong country-pop of "Gotta Get Back." Lynne shows herself adept at mixing genres as her soulful vocal fits in well over the country backdrop. Similarly the blues and country collide on the slide guitar heavy "Life Is Bad." Throughout the album, Lynne is not afraid to take chances or mix styles of music, making for an exhilarating listen.
The bonus tracks reveal many treasures as well. Lynne gives a haunting reading on "Bless The Fool." Backed by an acoustic guitar and sparse strings, it is as strong as anything on the main album. "She Knows Where She Goes" is a well-crafted country number with strong harmonies and an excellent vocal from Lynne. The live DVD features a 90-minute show recorded in 2000 at the House of Blues in Los Angeles. Lynne is in fine voice throughout and the show includes standout renditions of "Leavin'" and "Gotta Get Back," among others.
While it may have taken a while for people to notice Shelby Lynne, she has had a two-decade plus streak of critically acclaimed albums. I am Shelby Lynne remains a fantastic release, and it is the album that brought her to many people's attention. In an era where seemingly every album gets the deluxe treatment, this one actually deserves it.