This Is Shelby Lynne, Again
Shelby Lynne’s self-penned and self-produced album Revelation Road is an intimate, confessional and mainly acoustic recording that presents superb voice and songwriting to the fore. There is self-harmonising and some multi-tracking of her own vocals, as on the sweet I’ll Hold Your Head and sombre Lead Me Love, but overall there is refreshing restraint in the production techniques employed. She is credited as the sole performer too and this reflects a mature offering from an artist confident in her musical skills and the candid detail of her lyrics.
Simple mandolin supports the opening title track and it is a complex lyric that seems to reject everything but the singular true self because it is for this, and only this, that we will be judged: ‘Doing onto others is a farce, a laugh, a joke/Remember when the black veil falls/We all stand alone/Barefoot on the gravel man/We’re on Revelation Road’. Second track I’ll Hold Your Head is autobiographical about growing up in Alabama and the hardships of family life – it is another strong narrative, with a sense that telling the story should draw the pain in the memory to a close: ‘Come on Sissy let’s close the door/Don’t want to hear the noise no more’ [the reference to ‘Sissy’ is Shelby’s name for her sister, fellow singer Allison Moorer].
These are deep and thoughtful songs, bristling in honesty. The Thief is a simpler story and tells of lost love and the urge to do anything for its return, but that simplicity is itself a reflection of the album’s overall directness. Sixth track Woebegone is an electric country rock song that provides some relative pace in the album, its narrative again reflecting on past mistakes and here too there’s no redemption: this is just how it is – unless it is in the telling that she finds some resolution. Seventh track I Want To Go Back speaks of embracing this past of mistakes and supports this chance of resolve by using the songwriting, perhaps, to deal with its reality: ‘Does my heart need these scars to keep me alive/Oh and every time I pick up my guitar/Ah the sweet chord and memory/I just add to the collection of my broken dreams’. Is it an expression of suffering as muse? There does seem to be an overall darkness in these revelations, but the candour and acceptance is possibly the positive, cathartic response: ‘I got misery to share/With anyone who cares’ she sings in I Don’t Need a Reason to Cry.
Penultimate track Heaven’s Only Days Down The Road is a song that possibly deals with Shelby Lynne’s by now well-known horrific past where her father killed her mother and then himself. The song presents a murderer’s persona ‘insane since I was 9’ who is out to kill and when he does reflects ‘I want to put her back but don’t know how/Heaven’s only days down the road/Nobody wants me down here no more/Look at what I did to make them hate me for/Can’t blame the whiskey or my mammy’s ways/Two little girls are better off this way’. It’s a powerful tale, musically too, and it’s hard to imagine the creative and emotional process that leads to this kind of revelation.