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Shelby Lynne Revelation Road Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

The closest Lynne has got to where she should always have been.

Andrew Mueller 2011

On her 12-album-long tramp to Revelation Road, Shelby Lynne has tried on – or been trussed up in – a bewildering array of personas, from the big-haired Nashville ingénue of her first records, to the pugnacious, critically revered Americana songwriter of the late 90s, to – on 2008’s eccentric and lovely Just a Little Lovin’ – a pop chanteuse paying reverent homage to the hits of Dusty Springfield.

The title of 1999’s breakthrough I Am Shelby Lynne notwithstanding, Revelation Road seems Lynne's most earnest attempt to unveil the real her. She is credited as writer, producer and sole performer; the album also appears, like its two immediate predecessors, on Lynne’s own label. The album is sparsely arranged, Lynne’s voice mixed forward to be heard breathy and intimate: it seems safe to assume that the works of Gillian Welch, and the later albums of Johnny Cash, were on high rotation during its gestation.

Most remarkably, a couple of songs sound like obvious references to Lynne’s childhood, or at least like songs which Lynne doesn’t mind being interpreted as such. She has always been commendably reluctant to encourage prurient speculation about the gruesome tragedy which blighted her teens – her father killed her mother, and then himself – but on the incongruously breezy Heaven’s Only Days Down the Road, she inhabits the head of a gun-wielding desperado bent on hideous revenge; the song ends with two drumcracks masquerading as gunshots. The gorgeous I’ll Hold Your Head is a nostalgic depiction of an Alabama childhood, excerpting the ancient standard Side By Side, and explicitly addressed to someone called Sissy – Lynne’s name for her younger sister, Allison Moorer.

Elsewhere, Lynne’s extraordinary voice embraces the gothic gospel of the title-track, the distinctly Springfield-ish torch pop of Even Angels, and the Bobbie Gentry-like lament of The Thief. As a whole, Revelation Road is the closest Lynne has got to where she should always have been, even if she mightn’t stay here long. "I want to go back," runs the chorus of the album’s mighty high point, "so I can run away again."

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