My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Shelby Lynne – ‘Sunrise’

sunriseShelby Lynne was teamed up with veteran producer Billy Sherrill for her first album in 1989. Her duet with George Jones and a cover of Buck Owens’ ‘Under Your Spell Again’ which had been her solo single debut were left off the tracklisting, which leans a little less traditional than either of those tracks. Shelby was only 20 when the album was released, but sounds considerably older.

Her big booming voice was front and center in ‘The Hurtin’ Side’, the album’s lead single, which just cracked the country top 40. Written by Mike Reid and Rory Michael Bourke, it’s a solid song about facing heartbreak. Reid and Bourke wrote two additional songs on the album, one of which is my favourite: ‘Till You Were Gone’, also recorded by John Conlee, is an agonized expression of regret at love discovered too late:

Every night right about now
I grow uneasy
Kinda restless somehow
It starts out like thunder on a slow steady roll
And I hit the floor half out of control

Baby I wonder if you look the same
Do you have children?
What are their names?
Does the one that you’re with
Need you all night long?
Like I never did
Until you were gone

Their third song, ‘Your Love Stays With me’ is a big ballad, more AC than country, and although it is well performed it doesn’t have a big impact.

The album’s only other single, ‘Little Bits And Pieces’ is a fine ballad recalling a broken relationship, penned by Dean Dillon and Hank Cochran, but unfortunately it did not catch on at radio. It is quite heavily strung and Shelby emotes intensely, perhaps a little too much. ‘Thinking About You Again’ is a slightly more understated but still deeply emotional ballad with a despairing lyric abut failing to move on after a breakup, written by Stephony Smith and Mike Porter.

Sherrill contributed one song, ‘This Time I Almost Made It’, an older song previously recorded by Barbara Mandrell, cited by Shelby as one of her big influences. A yearning cheating song, it had also been recorded by Tammy Wynette with Billy Sherrill at the helm, so perhaps it was his choice for Shelby, whose version stands up well to her illustrious predecessors.

The assertive ‘What About This Girl’, written by Randy Boudreaux with Madeline Stone, picks up the tempo but is not particularly country. The same goes for the bluesy ‘That’s Where It Hurts’, which starts out slow and then turns bold and brassy as she belts out a tale of heartbreak wherever she goes.

A languid jazzy take on Floyd Tillman’s classic ‘I Love You So Much It Hurts’ is effective, but the similarly jazz-inflected version of standard ‘I’m Confessin’’ is a little dull and feels self-indulgent.

Shelby’s voice and emotional intensity belied her youth, and this was an interesting debut. Although she did draw on the heritage of country music, her eclectic tastes and the fact that her retro tastes leaned more to the Nashville Sound and other genres, I wonder if she would have done better if she had been five or ten years older rather than making her debut during the heyday of the neotraditional movement. If you have eclectic tastes this is worth picking up: the vocals are strong, the songs pretty good, and the production suits her. But it was a little out of place in 1989.

Grade: B+

4 responses to “Album Review: Shelby Lynne – ‘Sunrise’

  1. Ken May 4, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Two things to keep in mind when looking back in time and analyzing why an artist may not have been commercially successful despite having obvious talent.

    1) What were they competing with in the marketplace at the time? The late 1980’s was ground zero for the new traditionalist movement in country music and record labels loaded up their rosters with fresh new acts. There was a ton of new material for radio to choose from and it was difficult for new artists to get recognized among all of the tonnage.

    2) What was the priority for that new artist from their own record label? When a label has numerous new acts all cannot receive the same promotion push. Music that gets an early positive reception at radio receives the promotional $$$ first.

    In Shelby’s case she never broke through due to both factors. Your comment that her style was a bit out of sync with country music trends of that day is on point.

    • Razor X May 4, 2015 at 9:55 am

      Her style was out of sync with the times and I believe that the fact she was a Billy Sherrill protege may have also hurt her. 1990 was about the time Sherrill was having major problems with the Sony brass and he retired somewhere in that time frame. It was also about the time that George Jones left Epic after 20 years on its roster — part of the reason was supposedly that the label wasn’t promoting his records because of the ongoing dispute with Sherrill. And of course it didn’t help that Shelby developed a reputation for being difficult to work with.

  2. luckyoldsun May 4, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    Shelby Lynne does not really seem here like she was being marketed for mainstream/country radio. The emphasis is somewhat limiting. I don’t think anyone since Mickey Gilley made it with more with remakes than new material. And Gilley and Milsap and Van Shelton and others who did remakes didn’t really do them in a retro style.
    And then there’s the whole look. In the video, she looks like she’s there for a practice session with the band, rather than a performance, what with the unisex clothing and all. The mainstream women artists of the day–Reba, Trisha, Lorrie, Pam, even Mary Chapin and Mattea–all had a more made up, polished look.

    • Ken May 4, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      You are completely incorrect. Shelby Lynn was signed by Epic in Nashville and was promoted exclusively as a country act. The offbeat imaging set her apart from the other female acts of that era and actually reflected exactly who she was rather than being a contrived marketing ploy. Shelby is blessed with an amazing voice but the stars did not line up for her at that time to bring about any hits.

      As for remakes only ONE of her chart singles was a remake. The remainder were all ORIGINAL songs so your comparison with the other artists is misplaced.

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