CD Review of Just a Little Lovin’ by Shelby Lynne
Recommended if you like
Bonnie Raitt, Carole King, Dusty Springfield
Label
Lost Highway Records
Shelby Lynne:
Just a Little Lovin’

Reviewed by Red Rocker

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W
hat a unique way for Lost Highway Records to usher in its new partnership with Grammy winning singer-songwriter Shelby Lynne: a Dusty Springfield songbook nearly three years in the making, with due credit to Barry Manilow, Burt Bacharach, and Phil Ramone. Manilow’s email to Lynne a few years back got the ball rolling. He suggested she consider tackling the back catalog of the ‘70s British pop siren, who, if you close your eyes, you might swear has risen from the dead to record this album herself. Yes, vocally, this covers album was a perfect fit.

As the project began taking shape, Capitol Records parted ways with Lynne, and she had to pitch the concept to Lost Highway, who loved what they heard. Just a Little Lovin’ is intentionally sparse and greatly under-produced. The production team that Phil Ramone (who’s worked with Frank Sinatra and Barbara Streisand) assembled, as well as the backing band and ultra-stripped down technique – all tracks were recorded live on 2-inch tape – served the underlying premise for this record: namely, that simplicity is the key. Lynne’s vision from the outset was to just show up and sing the songs. She didn’t want any extra fluff or noise or background pomp and circumstance. She demanded, in fact, that the songs be heard as naked as possible.

It’s a simple recording, that’s for sure. The title track is quietly jazzy, with nothing but a soft lounge guitar and snare kit joining in. Lynne hums and croons like she’s making love, and who can say she isn’t? Next to “Son of a Preacher Man” (which didn’t make the cut here), Springfield’s biggest hit was “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” yet Lynne absolutely makes it sound like her original. Bacharach’s pair of contributions, “Anyone Who Had a Heart” and “The Look of Love,” are equally well done, as each find Lynne escaping her country roots to sound more like Alicia Keys than Linda Ronstadt. Indeed, calling this a country record is a mistake. The textbook elements of R&B, jazz, and even soul dominate Just a Little Lovin’, further demonstrating the uncanny talents of a still relatively unfamiliar Lynne.

On her last two albums, Lynne has wandered further beyond the country genre. To be fair, her brand of country has always been less twang than soul. She is one of the more under-appreciated pure female vocalists of the era. Now she’s done the conventional covers album one better. By taking Barry Manilow’s recommendation and breaking her own mold, Shelby Lynne has re-established her own potential and obliterated any preconceived notion of what’s next.

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