At first blush, Shelby Lynne‘s Just a Little Lovin’ might feel a touch inevitable, perhaps a stopgap measure or a cynical attempt to sell a few records by covering the oeuvre of an established legend. Ever since Lynne transformed herself from conventional country singer to post-modern genre hopper on her stunning 2000 album I Am Shelby Lynne, she has earned countless comparisons to the great Dusty Springfield. Like Lynne, Springfield, who died in 1999, was also a husky-voiced singer who liked to traverse the border¬lands between musical styles, from sophisticated pop to greasy Memphis soul and back again. Surely, it’s not a stretch to think that Lynne would want to try an album’s worth of songs made famous by the great British pop and soul star.
The thing is, Springfield owns many of these songs. For loyalists, it’s apostasy to think of anyone else even trying them. With the very notable of exception of her seminal Dusty in Memphis album, Springfield was a spangles-and-sequins kind of gal. Her arrangements were blustery, powered by horn arrangements and pounding rhythm sections. We wouldn’t want to hear them any other way, and Lynne is wise enough to know that any attempt to draw a straight line from her to Springfield would result in a mighty weak cup of Starbucks latte.
Lynne pulls it way back; for the most part, all we hear on these ten tracks are drums played with brushes, a bass, and a gentle piano. Lynne isn’t capable of over-singing anyway. She makes the listener come to her by virtue of her impeccably laconic phrasing, the well-placed lilt, or the knowing sneer at the end of a phrase. ”You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” and ”I Only Want to Be With You” are slow burns here, imprecations that are hard to resist. ”How Can I Be Sure,” the great Rascals hit that Springfield covered, becomes a folk song, as Lynne pours her romantic ambivalence over a finger-picked acoustic guitar.
Just A Little Lovin’ is a stark reminder of Lynne’s empathetic skill as an interpreter. Oh, and if you’re looking for ”Son Of A Preacher Man” and ”I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself,” they aren’t here. That would just be a fool’s errand. A-
DOWNLOAD THIS: Hear a preview of ”The Look of Love” on Shelby Lynne’s MySpace page
Just a Little Lovin'