Archive for the ‘2011’ Category

(As noted in my first Essentials entry, this is an occasional series in which I spotlight albums that, in my estimation, everyone should experience at least once.)

Heaven knows, she ain’t no Margaret Mitchell – and thank God for that. For the past two weeks, I’ve been in something of a Shelby Lynne frame of mind – in the run-up to her concert in “almost Philly” last week, I explored her canon; and in the afterglow of said show, I’ve continued on. There are many flat-out fantastic platters in her catalog. I Am Shelby Lynne, her breakthrough, is one. Suit Yourself, from 2005, is another, And Just a Little Lovin’, her 2008 collection of Dusty Springfield songs, is yet another. 

Revelation Road is one more. Released in 2011, the 11-song-strong set (12 on vinyl; and more on the deluxe edition released a year later) was written, performed and produced by Shelby, but it’s far from a stripped-down affair. She plays guitar, bass, percussion, and keyboards, and provides all the backing vocals. The one-woman-band approach wouldn’t mean much without quality songs, of course. And she has them. (As the picture shows, my LP – which I bought at last week’s show – is autographed.)

In the liner notes, before dedicating the album to her Mama, Daddy, and Sissy, she explains that “writing these songs put me on the back roads of my past. I remembered my childhood in Alabama as I wrote this album and I looked back with love.” But processing that past also means, as evidenced by some of the songs, that she processed (at least in part) the pain. Her nostalgia is forever tinged bittersweet.

Also included are the yearning lyrics to a song called “Travelin’ Fever” that was written by her father, who – from what I’ve read – took off from time to time. Among the lines: “Every time I settle down and vow to roam no more/Something like a restless wind calls me to my door.” Remembering the best of him must be hard.

Shelby’s 11 (or 12, or more) songs explore the vagaries of her life. To crib from myself from earlier this year, “The mark of much, though certainly not all, great art is that it’s simultaneously personal and universal, restrictive yet expansive.” I.e., we identify with the lyrics, and hear ourselves in them. Such is the case here.

One highlight: “I’ll Hold Your Head,” in which she recalls trying to shield her younger sister from the “blues and the beer and the bourbon” that accented their childhoods. 

Another: “Even Angels.”

Another: “I Want to Go Back,” about accepting, confronting and escaping one’s past. In some respects, it delves into the same gauzy territory as Goffin-King’s “Goin’ Back,” but with much clearer eyes: “I want to go back so I can run away again.”

One song singled out in many of the reviews I’ve read is “Heaven’s Only Days Down the Road,” which made Rolling Stone’s list of “40 Saddest Country Songs of All Time” in 2014. It revisits what must be the ghostliest demarcation in Shelby’s life: The morning her father shot and killed her mother and then turned the gun on himself. What’s remarkable about it: She tells the story from the perspective of her dad: “Lost all the faith a man can own/My hopes are empty and so is my soul.”

“I Won’t Leave You,” which is also featured in the making-of documentary included with the deluxe version, is yet another gem.

The track list:

 

img_2437A little more than five years ago, on an October eve, Diane and I ventured to the World Cafe Live Upstairs in Philly to see a British singer who had yet to release an album in the U.S. – Rumer. At most, 50 folks were in attendance; and half of them, I think, were there for dinner and drinks, not the show. As I wrote in my first post to the Hatboro-Horsham Patch (since relocated to this blog), only a smattering – including us – were already familiar with her music.

Here are a few clips from that night (taken with a Canon digital camera):

img_2433Afterwards, Rumer stuck around to sell merchandise and meet the fans… and, despite not having a working turntable, I bought (for $10 or 15) her debut LP, Seasons of My Soul, which I’d had on CD since the previous fall. We talked a bit, as not everyone stuck around. She was exceptionally nice and gracious (as she has been the other two times we’ve met).

To the point: Through the years, I’ve collected quite a few new (and never played) LPs – Neil Young, Blake Babies, First Aid Kit, Fleetwood Mac, others – that came as part of “deluxe” packages. I’ve intended, for quite a while, to return to the days or yore, but one thing or another – usually, the purchase of CDs and high-res downloads – cut into my music budget. But with the advent of Apple Music, my costs have gone down. I rarely purchase. Rumer’s new one? Yes, I bought that (and, in fact, have a CD-LP combo flying across the Atlantic to my doorstep); Neil? Of course. He’s a no-brainer. Most others? Eh. I’m quite content with the sound quality of Apple Music. As much as I enjoyed my Pono player, and I did, I’ve relegated it to home-use. But that’s a post for another day…

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Back on point: Today, I listened to Seasons of My Soul the way nature intended – analog. In my case, that means via a Sony turntable connected to a Samsung shelf-stereo system that I picked up, for free, through my job earlier this month. The sound is good. Great? Probably no better than the CD, given that the system isn’t top-end, but that’s okay. It’s cool to slip a vinyl disc from its sleeve, drop onto the turntable and let the music wash over you. Like days gone by.

Even my wooly bully of a feline, Tyler the Love Cat, enjoys it.