It's been 14 years since Shelby Lynne released her soulful, country-tinged album "I Am Shelby Lynne." And over the course of that time, Lynne has had her share of ups and a few creative downs. However on this latest (reissued here with bonus tracks, a live club recording and a second live disc from London plus a DVD about the making the disc), Lynne tends to go into another soulful but equally roots-y realm on the opening title track. It's not a surprise she taps into this well over the course of the album judging by the sweet combination of I Want To Go Back and I Don't Need A Reason To Cry. Early on, it's her soothing Southern pipes come to the fore on the murky I'll Hold Your Head as she sings about singing a lullaby "sitting by the fire." Here Lynne also offers up a snippet of the oldie Side By Side underneath the main lyrics.
Thankfully, the first real hint at how relevant Lynne still is comes during the gorgeous Even Angels, which harkens back to that 1999 record. Backed by a strong but simple framework, Lynne's voice is allowed to carry the tune from start to finish, which she does with criminal ease. The same can be said for the sweet, romantic "The Thief" that brings to mind the late Amy Winehouse if she had spent time along Nashville's Music Row. The only clunker early on is a bossa nova-ish approach to Lead Me Love, which led her down the wrong creative trail. Yet it's a brief miscue by the time Woebegone comes around with its light Sheryl Crow-like Stones-y riff in the distance.
The main album's homestretch basically features Lynne and her guitar, which shines on Heaven's Only Days Down The Road, which steadily picks up steam. As for the bonus material, there are a couple of renditions of album material but Lynne misses the mark on Ain't Your Land that sounds good in spots, but comes off more like an unrefined demo as does the unplugged Between The Rows. It's worth it though as I'll Hold Your Head is performed again with a hushed closeness quality resembling Lynne playing in your living room.
The real charming perk to this reissue however is the live disc, an 18-track collection of her hits, which liberally includes numbers from "Revelation Road" including the set opening title track. Although there's little difference between the studio and live numbers, Lynne's talent in a live, bare-bones setting seems far more preferable.
"I got some Southern stories to tell ya if that's alright," Lynne says prior to I'll Hold Your Head, adding she learned how to sing three-part harmony going to school with her sister and her mother. It's also a song she dedicates to her sister before I Don't Need A Reason To Cry comes along and sounding terribly sweet. The only drawback might be how the first seven tunes are all off the new record without any sort of mixing between old and new. Regardless, the stellar second half more than makes up for it as Jesus On A Greyhound and the delicate Leavin Lynne beautifully belts out. Yet she can turn on a dime with the softer narrative Johnny Met June about country's first royal couple and the haunting Tarpolean Napoleon about her father. Overall the studio album is very good, but the live portion is even better.