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Lynne show a special event

DOWN BY the river, across from the Hardee’s, some  musical magic happened  in Fredericksburg last week.

In the intimate, comfortable confines of the Old Silk Mill on Princess Anne Street, a venue I’d never been to before, a 43-year-old blond renegade sang of Greyhound buses, family tragedy, unconditional love and absolution—you know, the stuff of life.

My wife, Peggy, and I had discovered Shelby Lynne a few years ago in New York City, when we opted to take in one of her performances in the basement of a hotel across the street from where we were staying.

We were hooked immediately on this Quantico-born, Alabama-bred country/folk songwriter/singer whose piercing voice has been compared to Dusty Springfield’s.

And now here she was, live in Fredericksburg on a beautiful Wednesday night, warbling her tunes for over an hour straight.

Sure, the big-name season for the Fredericksburg music scene has not yet begun. Everyone from Willie Nelson to Bruce Hornsby will be filling up the big concert spaces on late-spring and summer weekends. Yes, on First Fridays, the downtown scene is already rocking with live music, from the pool hall to the bookstores.

But Lynne on a Wednesday night in April, near the banks of the Rappahannock, was something special.

The diverse crowd was enthusiastic but respectful. They seemed to know that the notoriously independent Lynne would tend to business, focusing on her music as if it were a master’s thesis, and that she would let the music do the talking.

There wasn’t much chitchat—a mention of missing her dog after three weeks on the road, an allusion to her birthplace of Quantico, a tribute to traditional country as the kind of music that makes you want to drink—and there were definitely no flashing lights or overwrought background music to get in the way of her offerings.

It was just Shelby, her assortment of acoustic guitars and her music, which she refers to as personal and private.

I must admit I had doubts as I drove to the concert that night. Could this be right? Could this talented firebrand, who several years ago took a hike from Nashville to California, really be playing in a renovated warehouse just down the street from Olde Towne Steak & Seafood? Sure enough, with no pandering words of introduction, there she was, looking fit, focused and ready to play.

She was willing to share the music she wrote and plays on her new album, “Revelation Road.” But the person behind the music, the go-it-alone musician who as a teenager witnessed the murder–suicide that claimed her parents, was more circumspect.

There’s a lot of mystery  to Shelby Lynne. In an age  of over-sharing, that’s something to treasure.

Ed Jones: 540/374-5401