When, after spending more than a decade on the fringes of the country mainstream, Shelby Lynne, made her official break from Nashville with 2000’s extraordinary I Am Shelby Lynne, many critics were quick to compare her new sound to Dusty Springfield’s brand of blue-eyed Memphis soul. Though the styles of her three subsequent albums varied from the overproduced rock of the critically and commercially disastrous Love, Shelby to the stripped-down Americana of Identity Crisis and Suit Yourself, it isn’t much of a surprise to find Lynne finally embracing those comparisons on her new album, Just a Little Lovin’. A collection of covers of some of the standout tracks from Springfield’s catalogue (and one original song, “Pretend,” that fits seamlessly into the set), the album has a greater sense of direction than many efforts from the recent glut of phoned-in covers albums by the likes of Joan Osborne and Raul Malo. Lynne brings her own bluesy, lived-in sensuality to such familiar songs as “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” and “Breakfast in Bed,” and her languid sense of phrasing makes her as well-equipped as any modern vocalist to go head-to-head with Springfield’s iconic deliveries. It’s to producer Phil Ramone’s credit that he generally stays out of the way, giving the final recording a laidback vibe that speaks to the recording process—Lynne and her band improvised most of these arrangements (the best of which is a sultry, slow-burning take on “Willie and Laura Mae Jones”), and Lynne’s scratch vocals were left as is for the final mixes. That’s a testament to Lynne’s exceptional voice and interpretive skill—it’s not for nothing that Tammy Wynette once remarked that Lynne had the best voice in country music—and to her stated goal to draw in-the-moment inspiration from Springfield’s songs. If the result isn’t a classic album like Dusty in Memphis, it’s at least a reminder of why Lynne merits those comparisons at all.
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