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Shelby Lynne

I Can't Imagine – 2015 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Robert Loy

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CDs by Shelby Lynne

Shelby Lynne really needs to figure out who she is if she ever wants to be something more than the answer to the trivia question "What artist won a Grammy for best new artist after releasing 6 albums over 12 years?" Is she a country singer? Blues? Is she Dusty Springfield reincarnated? Why can't she find a style and stick with it?"

That's what they say anyway, but maybe they're wrong. Maybe Shelby figured out a long time ago who she was and how she wanted to sing. Just because we don't a word yet for that amalgam of soul, blues, country and torch she does so well doesn't mean Lynne's a dilettante. It means we need to expand our vocabulary.

So call it what you like, but don't miss out as Lynne continues exploring her spiritual side as she did on 2011's underrated "Revelation Road." "Be in the Now" reflects Eastern wisdom while "Sold the Devil (Sunshine)" presents an unusual way for good to defeat evil. She is equally adept at extolling the virtues of simple, down-home life ("Back Door Front Porch") as she is at exploring the dark side of it, looking at the torment inflicted on a young gay southerner in "Down Here."

When more artists become proficient at this kind of no-genres barred music and honest lyrics then maybe there will be a word for it. Until then we should stop expecting Shelby Lynne to be less than she is.