News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Shelby Lynne Is Coming To The ‘Burg
BY ANDREW LEAHEY
FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
Don’t let her homespun folk songs and Bible Belt charm fool you. Shelby Lynne can be downright intimidating.
To be fair, the Virginia-born songwriter is usually pretty easygoing. She talks at a relaxed pace, pauses between sentences and makes no attempt to hide her deep Southern accent. But she doesn’t like stupid questions. If you happen to ask one—say, during an early morning phone interview, when you haven’t gotten much sleep and Lynne has a full day of driving ahead of her—she’ll let you know.
“Come on, man,” she said after I’d asked if her current tour is a one-woman operation.
“Really, think about what you just asked,” she continued. “Does that make any sense at all? Does that make sense? That’s not possible. I mean it’s just not possible to do. I have two guys helping with the tour, and a manager.”
Fair enough. Mounting an East Coast tour without any assistance would definitely be tough.
In my defense, it is a solo tour with Lynne on stage by herself, playing her own songs on an acoustic guitar. And she has a reputation for doing things her own way.
Since the release of 1999’s Grammy-winning “I Am Shelby Lynne,” she has attracted as much attention for her do-it-yourself attitude as she has for her songwriting—a mix of country, folk and fierce Americana. In an industry filled with pliable musicians who allow labels and record executives to make decisions for them, she’s an independent trailblazer capable of just about anything.
In fact, she single-handedly wrote, recorded and produced her most recent album, “Revelation Road.” She played all the instruments, too, even the ones that she didn’t really know. So if anyone could drive down the Eastern Seaboard and make periodic stops at high-profile venues without a manager riding shotgun, it’s Shelby Lynne.
“Music should be like breathing,” she said a few minutes later, after we’d moved past the faulty reasoning of my first question. “If it’s plotted out and analyzed to death, it doesn’t feel very real or very spontaneous. With ‘Revelation Road,’ I just followed my emotions, because it’s the emotions that make the music.”
The emotions that weave their way through “Revelation Road” are pretty heavy. Lynne sings about unconditional love during “I Won’t Leave You,” prays for absolution in the country–gospel song “Woebegone” and examines her mother’s death at the hands of Lynne’s own father—a traumatic event that occurred in full view of Lynne and her younger sister, both of them only teenagers at the time—in “Heaven’s Only Days Down the Road.” She frames each song simply, keeping her twangy melodies at the forefront while filling the background with guitars, mandolins and softly brushed percussion.
“After you’ve been recording for a while,” she said of the album’s creation, “the songs start to present themselves as cousins. They hang out together. And you start to realize, all right, I’m getting close to having a full album here. You just go with your gut, and when the entire record is ready, you know it.”
For Lynne, making records like “Revelation Road” is a vintage process that sometimes requires the use of modern materials.
“iPhones have replaced the napkin,” she jokes. “I don’t give a damn who’s around or what I’m doing; you have to be ready to capture whatever idea comes into your head, and that’s why we have iPhones. I haven’t completely given up on using pen and paper, though, so I guess I’m still a fire hazard.”
When it comes time to translate those iPhone ideas into actual songs, though, she prefers using old-school 2-inch analog tape. ProTools and other digital software programs have no place inside Lynn’s private studio in Palm Desert, Calif.
“Computers don’t inspire me when I make records,” she explains. “I don’t want to look at a computer screen when I’m singing a song about a back porch. It doesn’t work.”
What does work is the final product. “Revelation Road” paints its tales of Southern romance and small-town country life with bright, vivid colors, calling to mind a 21st-century Bobbie Gentry or a female John Hiatt. It’s an album about dealing with the past and learning to move on.
“These songs are personal,” she explained. “They’re private. And this tour is the same way, because it’s just me up there.”
What: An evening with Shelby Lynne
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 4. Doors at 7 p.m.
Where: The Old Silk Mill, 1707 Princess Anne St., Fredericksburg
Cost: $27.50 in advance, $32.50 at the door. Tickets available at 540/372-4567; shelbylynne.eventbrite.com. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Childhelp.
Andrew Leahey is a musician and freelance writer from Nashville.