Shelby Lynne: Revelation Road

Shelby Lynne
Revelation Road
Rating: ★★★★☆

Given how prolific Shelby Lynne has been this millennium, it might sound a little odd to say this, but Revelation Road is the most song-focused album of any in her body of work to date. She produced it herself, sang every part and, for the first time, did every bit of the playing, too, decisions that are in step with her admirably strong sense of artistic self-sufficiency.

Lynne wisely took a spare and simple approach in the studio, but there are times when her forays into new territory—percussion, for instance—feel stiff against the suppleness of her vocals. She is, after all, one of the finest and most subtly soulful singers of her generation. But ultimately the playing neither adds much to nor takes away from the songs. This batch of originals is as strong as any she’s put out since 2003’s Identity Crisis; they stand on their own.

“Even Angels” is country-soul of the highest quality, all briskly emotional lyrics and slow-burning tunefulness, and “Woebegone”—both the song itself and the way she attacks the hook—packs all the wounded punch of “Your Lies,” the masterpiece Lynne co-wrote over a decade ago. There’s also some excellent sophisticated, inwardly turned pop to be found in “Lead Me Love.”

As for storytelling, Lynne’s scene-setting is evocative during the tenderly down-home song “I’ll Hold Your Head”—which captures the bond between siblings in a deeply troubled family—and the funky, foreboding blues number “Heaven’s Only Days Down the Road.” Whether or not her songwriting draws on anything of her own autobiography here or elsewhere—which isn’t something she’s ever really been given to dissecting—boy, do those narratives have the power to take in the listener.