Shelby Lynne "Tears, Lies, and Alibis" (Everso, 2010)
Grammy winner strikes out in her own direction, and loses her way
Ms. Lynne has constructed a careful persona around herself. She’s the kind of fiercely independent female songwriter the Nashville machine is so fond of, but given to a wilful eclecticism often at odds with record label politics. Now she’s taken the surely wise step of striking out on her own, releasing her first LP on her own label; allowing herself the freedom to do things her way. And while ‘Tears, Lies, and Alibis’ definitely sounds like the work of an accomplished artist making a record the way she wants to, there is still conflict here, both of tone and intent.
Actually, things get off to a pretty promising start. Opening track ‘Rains Came’ is superb. A jaunty staccato thrashing of guitar and a cocksure, swaggering vocal part announce the arrival of an artist seizing her new artistic freedom. Similarly, the following track ‘Why Didn’t You Call Me’ is a catchy and utterly assured piece of adult contemporary pop that recalls Lynne’s last major label LP ‘Just a Little Lovin’’. Elsewhere, ‘Something To Be Said About Airstreams’ provides a languid sense of alt. country escapism, recalling some of Gillian Welch’s finer songs.
But in spite of the album’s high points, things too often fall apart. It’s clear that Lynne has aimed for an emotional openness here, songs in a raw confessional mould, and the record is preoccupied with deep introspection. ‘Like a Fool’ is a sparse piece of dark balladry, spectral basslines lost in a late night gloom. ‘Old #7’ is a bottom-of-the-bottle lament soaked with washes of pedal steel. But such introspection never proves relatable or, most of the time, interesting. Melancholy is too often eschewed in favour of self pity. Emotional honesty is clearly at the fore, but so much of it sounds embittered that the listener ends up wishing Lynne had kept some of it to herself. ‘Family Tree’ hits almost four minutes’ worth of sour notes and what is apparently meant as vitriol feels more like bile. What is intended as a song of condemnation becomes one simply of unpleasantness.
‘Tears, Lies, and Alibis’ purports to be a new direction, but ultimately loses any sense of it. It’s the sound of someone looking into themselves and then wallowing there rather than bringing anything back.
Date review added: Monday, September 13, 2010
Reviewer: Alex Cleary
Related web link: Artist's Official Site