Black Music Matters Festival

Shelby Lynne

I Am Shelby Lynne – 2000 (Island)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Shelby Lynne's Island debut may have been a big hit with discerning pop music listeners, but it also had hard time finding a definable audience. But as her repackaged Lucky Dog retrospective also illustrates, Lynne has never been anything even close to a cookie cutter female vocalist.

Lynne is blessed with a distinctive smoky low voice, and it makes an immediate impression within almost any musical context. But like Patsy Cline before her, country music alone is just too small of a pond for this wander-lusting angelfish.

Her self-titled Island release is propelled by a newfound self-confidence. This point is driven home by one line in particular from the song "Why Can't You Be." "Last I heard there were angels walking in Los Angeles/with their hands in their pockets looking cool like me."

She's a little too cool and edgy for corporate country, but she fits right in with the cosmopolitan movie-stars-in-waiting of LA. Instead of revisiting the swing side of jazz this time, Lynne instead puts her flaming hot persona to modern day torch songs. But with their swelling strings and full-bodied horns, many these songs recordings - such as the opener "Your Lies" - still retain a slightly retro feel. The quiet guitar-led "Lookin' Up" wouldn't sound at all out of place in the hands of Billie Holiday.

Lynne is like an elusive butterfly when it comes to being categorized: She simply refuses to be captured.