The Belly Up Tavern, Solana Beach, CA 5/4/08
Ahhh, Shelby. The Alabama gal made good.
If you don’t know who Shelby Lynne is, Google her. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Now that you’re up to speed, picture if you will: blonde and blue, country in the city, fire and ice. Shelby’s latest album, “Just A Little Lovin” is a torch burning, smoky set of Dusty Springfield covers like “Breakfast In Bed”, “Just A Little Lovin”, “Anyone Who Had A Heart”, “I Only Want To Be With You”, etc. She did Dusty Springfield proud last night channeling, but not imitating, the British songstress who put a whole new face on and gave new depth to the sound of soul. In the more than capable producing hands of Phil Ramone, the often bold Springfield tunes on “Just A Little Lovin” become gentled, sensual and achingly reserved. On the stage of the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach (yes, the same place of last week’s shark attack) Shelby and her stellar band (understatement as John Jackson on guitar puts the musicianship over the top) treated us to a good reason to stay out late on a Sunday night.
The Belly Up Tavern is dark, flanked by wood and gives that warm, informal tavern feel; no more fitting a place for Ms. Lynne to wield the sultry inside. In her tiny yet capable hands, the songs of old became reverent and restrained, tender and passionate yet powerful renditions without her ever losing the plot: love. Opening the show with the album’s title track set a heady tone as during certain lines of the song, her eyes would close, her arms would stretch out, the beat would pause and the silence of the song’s yearning would fill the room before she hit the next lyric.
Shelby also dipped into some of the best of her catalog of music; songs from my favorite Shelby Lynne albums “I Am Shelby Lynne” (which won her the Best New Artist Grammy) and “Identity Crisis” injected most of the rhythm & blues-flavored country that she’s so known for. “Gotta Get Back”, “Dream Some”, Black Light Blue”, a little qualified foot stomping with “Life Is Bad”, “Jesus On A Greyhound”, and “Telephone” which she said she wrote after 12 margaritas and now that I know that, NOW the song makes absolute and complete sense. It’s literally an ode to drunk dialing.
And respectful is as respectful does when she cooed her way through her homage to the one and only Man In Black, Johnny Cash and his missus in “Johnny Met June”.
Shelby Lynne’s voice is a perfect combination of longing and love and it transmits all shades emotion seemingly without effort. Almost a minimalist in vocal technique, she has no need for being a vocal acrobat like every American Idol contestant even though she’s more than capable considering the lung power behind that beautiful voice. Instead she’s a cool drink of water and a slow burning candle on the stage whose brilliant creative landscape is, like Dusty, the bruising and healing of life and love. Off of the stage she was incredibly kind and appreciative of the love, hasn’t lost a touch of her Alabama tongue even though she’s lived in Los Angeles for 10 years, and she gives you a real good feel good in her presence.
And she’s ridiculously beautiful up close and, if lucky, maybe a size 2.