I’ve been a fan since I Am Shelby Lynne appeared in 1999. By that time Shelby had been in the music business for a number of years, but that didn’t stop the Grammys from naming her Best New Artist that year. Not only do I love Shelby’s music, I have undying respect for the choice she made to walk away from the mold that they tried to stick her into in Nashville so that she could write her own songs, and do it her way.
Those estimable choices brought her, armed only with an acoustic guitar, a bag full of great songs, and a soaring voice, to the Narrows Arts Center in Fall River, MA, a couple of weeks ago. It was a performance to remember.
The Narrows is a great place to hear music. The music venue is located on the third floor of an ancient mill building in an old industrial seaport city. As someone who has been dismayed by the audience noise level that seems to be increasing each time I go to a show, I was mightily impressed by the respectful attention paid to the performer by the quiet crowd of 300 people. That experience speaks directly to the intimate nature of Shelby’s performance.
Of course my respect doesn’t extend to the couple who were sitting in front of me and chattered away non-stop throughout the show. Later they asked Shelby to sign something for them at the meet and greet that followed, and told Shelby what big fans they are. Really?
Shelby’s set list touched on all phases of her career, going back to I Am Shelby Lynne for “Your Lies,” and “Life Is Bad.” There was a thrilling performance of “Jesus On A Greyhound” from her 2001 album Love, Shelby, a stunning “When Johnny Met June,” from 2005’s Identity Crisis, and “Old Dog” from the 2010 album Tears, Lies, and Alibis.
Understandably, much of the evening was focused on Shelby’s latest release, last year’s Revelation Road. It was one of my favorite albums of 2011, and it was great to hear the songs played in such an up close and personal fashion. Songs from the album included the title track, which opened the show, “Woebegone,” “I’ll Hold Your Head,” the beautiful “Even Angels, and the profoundly courageous “Heaven’s Only Days Down the Road,” which was a true show stopper.
I must admit to having some concern about how Shelby was going to perform songs from her wonderful Dusty Springfield tribute album Just A Little Lovin’, because the album features tasteful but complex instrumental arrangements that would be hard to reproduce on an acoustic guitar. At the end of the night, she answered that question and then some with a powerful and moving a cappella version of “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” that closed out the evening.
Shelby Lynne has been on the road non-stop for some time now. It’s more than likely that she’ll be coming to your town, or one very near to you one of these days. Be sure you go out to see her. She’s an American treasure.