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Revelation Road

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Album Review

Revelation Road is singer and songwriter Shelby Lynne's third self-released recording in two years. She wrote, produced, and performed every note on this set solo — a first for her. While her songs have always been confessional, the 11 tracks featured here — composed in a variety of genres but all of them more or less comfortably ensconced within Americana's broad brush stroke — are more intimate than anything she's issued previously. This includes the harrowing "Heaven's Only Days Down the Road," which directly addresses the killing of Lynne's mother by her father before he committed suicide in front of her and her sister. In other words, this is the record she's had to make her entire career. The title track opens with a stilted drum loop counterbalanced by a pair of mandolins, tastefully layered, gospel-styled backing vocals, and a basic pulse bassline. Lynne effortlessly expresses the deep emotion in her lyric above it all. "Woebegone" is a balladic rocker informed by soul and gospel on the refrain. "Lead Me Love" is a gorgeous romantic number that reflects the enduring influences of Dusty Springfield and Antonio Carlos Jobim on her music. "Even Angels" is a nod back to the country scene of the '80s, when Lynne entered the business. The languid pop that drives "I Want to Go Back," a paean to broken love, is given wings by a killer bridge. "Toss It All Aside," another busted love tome, begins with the "ooooo-whooo-ooo" vocal intro to Hall & Oates' "She's Gone" (not a sample, but Lynne's own multi-layered vocals), but is transformed into a much simpler, folky tune with tasteful electric guitars and snares. It stands out not for the reference in its intro, but for the naked emotion in her lyric and vocal. "I Won't Leave You" is a logical topical extension. Revelation Road feels of a piece, as if Lynne wrote it as a song cycle. Its tracks move seamlessly from one to another, until "Heaven's Only Down the Road" jolts the listener into shock — the same way Bob Dylan's "Ballad of Hollis Brown" did so long ago — and adds a different weight of meaning to the soft, simple, elegant closer, "I Won't Leave You." Revelation Road is the quietest record of Lynne's career, but it feels like her rawest, too, even as it offers, in small bits and pieces, the varying shades, complexities, and pleasures in her musical world.


Born: October 22, 1968 in Quantico, VA

Genre: Country

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

By the time Shelby Lynne won her Best New Artist Grammy, she'd already completed six albums and had over a decade of recording experience under her belt. Yet in a way, the award was appropriate, since I Am Shelby Lynne was the album that finally found her taking control of her music, following years of casting about in search of an identity. Lynne's work ranged through country, blues, Southern soul, roots rock, Western swing, jazz, and adult contemporary pop; naturally, that eclecticism made her...
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