Two decades into a commercially modest but critically lauded music career — including a Best New Artist Grammy for her 2000 breakthrough, I Am Shelby Lynne — what’s a 39-year-old rebel to do? After exploring everything from country to pop to jazz over the course of nine largely unsung albums, Shelby Lynne was at loose ends. Until she received an e-mail from…Barry Manilow. (”We’re not close,” she explains. ”But we like each other’s work a lot.”) A well-known interpreter himself, he suggested the Alabama-bred Lynne take on the catalog of Dusty Springfield, the British songstress behind transcendent ’60s pop classics like ”Son of a Preacher Man” and ”The Look of Love.”
”I wrote him back, like, a year later,” Lynne recalls. ”I said, ‘Do you [still] think this is a good idea?”’ He did. After all, Lynne and Springfield share more than just throaty vocals, a sweep of platinum hair, and a fiery disposition. Both iconoclasts in a business that rewards conformity, they each struggled with personal heartache: Springfield battled substance abuse and depression until her death from breast cancer in 1999; Lynne was only 17 when her alcoholic father killed her mother and then shot himself.
Despite their parallels, Lynne was actually more nervous to approach Springfield’s classics in the studio. ”I don’t think you can arrange those songs,” she says. ”They have such beautiful melodies and lyrics, you just let them do the work, you know?” Indeed, Just a Little Lovin’ (out now) offers spare, twangy riffs on favorites like ”Anyone Who Had a Heart” and ”I Only Want to Be With You.” Largely unadorned, they were recorded in a style Lynne describes as ”kind of a Sunday-morning, coffee-in-your-pajamas record. But at the same time, a Saturday-night, wine-drinkin’, smokin’-a-doobie record.” The latter activity may not be legally available to concertgoers when she mounts a tour this spring, but either way, Lynne insists, ”I want to convince the world that these songs need to be heard again.”
Read the review of Lynne’s Just a Little Lovin’.