Identity Crisis (Capitol)

Shelby Lynne 

Identity Crisis (Capitol)

Now this is more like it. Shelby Lynne's 2000 release, I Am Shelby Lynne, announced that a talented artist had finally discovered herself. I Am was personal, smart, husky, soulful and unabashedly Southern. By contrast, her follow-up, Love, Shelby , sounded as if it were performed by a different person altogether. It was a rejection of all the complex qualities that made I Am sing. It replaced Lynn's tactile, Dixie-bred vignettes with indecipherable foolishness and walled her sensual drawl behind radio-ready sludge. Identity Crisis is the album Lynne should've made all along. It returns to the places and themes she knows best (identity crisis -- like hell) without retracing her steps. It's spare, bluesy and acoustic. It's also more groove-driven than anything Lynne has made before. Several cuts are juke-joint danceable yet are still indebted to the call-and-response style of the Southern church. When Lynne testifies that she plans to greet Jesus at her door in "Ten Rocks," a gospel choir seconds that emotion. This return to roots is part of a welcome revival of Southern music and the region's blues-born, life-hurts-but-it-beats-the-alternative ethos. Outkast and Nappy Roots aren't the only ones hailing from the Dirty South. There are Dixie Chicks and Drive-By Truckers, and even Yankees such as the White Stripes, Kid Rock and Bob Dylan have recently looked southward. Like those acts, Lynne knows that the Southern songbook is an infinitely renewable resource. This is evident in the way she sings of life's inherent tragedy, the human condition understood by the likes of everyone from Eudora Welty to Hank Williams. If we were smart, Lynne sings with a groan and a smile, we wouldn't have a heart.

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