Shelby Lynne – Revelation Road (CD review)

Shelby Lynne – Revelation Road (Everso Records) CD review

Shelby Lynne is one of the most passionately-driven, deeply talented artists to emerge in the last twenty years.  Perhaps it’s because she began her career in country music, or maybe because she’s a woman, but for whatever reason, she’s never received the respect she deserves.  Sure, she won a Grammy for Best New Artist in 2001 for her album I Am Shelby Lynne, but she’s grown a great deal since then.  For Revelation Road, her eighth album since breaking away from Nashville over a decade ago, Lynne wrote, produced, sang, and played every note on the album; a rare feat for any individual.    Add in the fact that Lynne is also running her own record label, and you realize just how devoted to her own musical vision she must be.

Revelation Road is a deeply personal album; perhaps that’s why she decided to go it alone – if she was going to set all these demons free, at least she was the only one in the studio to have to confront them.  She admits “I’ve been insane since I was nine” in “Heaven’s Only Days Down the Road,” while on “I’ll Hold Your Head,” she sings “c’mon sister lets close the door / I don’t want to hear the noise no more.”  Yet, even in this dark moment of recollection, she still manages to wrap it in lush multi-part harmonies, all sung by her, adding a comforting quality – as if to say that everything’s going to be alright, at least eventually.

Sandwiched right in the middle of all this pain is the gorgeous “Lead Me Love,” featuring a sultry vocal, and tasty Rhodes piano solo.  Another highlight is “The Thief,” which starts out with acoustic guitar and is joined by several tracks of Lynne vocals on the chorus of “I’d rob a rich man’s diamond mine / and make you be my Valentine / say the word and I’ll become a thief.”  It also features a very nice solo by her on mandolin.  “Woebegone” chugs along like a twisted Tom Petty track, which actually features some searing guitar work.  The fact is, no matter how painful the memories of the past might be, she still frames these songs with the best singing and playing of her entire career.  In one way, Revelation Road is not unlike John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band – both albums are cathartic exorcising of the past.  Yet, her new record also shares commonality with McCartney’s debut solo disc, in that both feature a single individual performing every instrument.  Put in that context, you realize just how special a performer Shelby Lynne truly is.  –Tony Peters