Identity Crisis finds Shelby Lynne at the most exposed point of her rollercoaster career, this from a vivacious lass who has never been shy of revealing herself. She bears her soul instead of her skin this time and the result is…well…interesting, to say the least. Gone is the detonating guitar-rock of “Killin’ Kind,” snuffed out here in favor of an evocative back porch mantra that Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf would have given a thumbs up to. Take the sultry “Lonesome,” for example. Barely more than a piano and half-paced acoustic guitar keep this broken-hearted ditty on course, but it works because, I believe, Lynne could read a legal document and make it sound good in song. Before a pause to even recall who you are listening to, Lynne swaggers into the raw Mississippi delta blues of “Evil Man,” a stripped-down wailer that reeks of Eric Clapton circa 1975.
It has become increasingly more difficult to classify her as country. Hell, it’s more and more challenging to categorize Shelby Lynne period. She’s one of the very few, still vital artists on the scene who can style drift from musical space and back. The one thing that connects the James Taylor-ish “Telephone” with a Jerry Lee Lewis mocked “10 Rocks” and Bonnie Raitt rip-off like “Gotta Be Better” is Lynne’s blistering vocal range. She is an artist in every sense, wrapping her whole self around every tune and building a case. In short, we’ll find ways of eventually liking these songs even if not the very first time through the record. (Just try not falling hard for “I Don’t Think So.”)
At the end of the day, Shelby Lynne doesn’t need my approval or anyone else’s. She is, now more than ever, her own woman. I am not going out on a limb and calling Identity Crisis the greatest collection of songs written, or even released this year. But if you have any inkling to sample Shelby Lynne from a past or present labor, I can only encourage you to do it now. To her fans, she’s as much a part of the day as putting on socks and shoes. But to the unassuming masses, she is woman, hear her roar!
other Shelby Lynne reviews:
Love, Shelby (2001)