Shelby Lynne

Thought It Would Be EasierI Am Shelby Lynne
Jesus On A GreyhoundLove, Shelby
Loser, DreamerTears, Lies, And Alibis
I Don’t Think SoIdentity Crisis
You Don’t Have A HeartSuit Yourself
I’ll Hold Your HeadRevelation Road
I Can’t ImagineI Can’t Imagine
Is It Too MuchNot Dark Yet
Don’t Even Believe In LoveShelby Lynne
Leavin’I Am Shelby Lynne

Shelby Lynne photo 3



Shelby Lynne playlist



Contributor: Carl Parker

If Toppermost allowed more than ten tracks, this could be called Shelby Lynne (Part 2). This is because Shelby’s career falls into two distinct parts. The first part made up of the five albums that preceded the release in 1999 of I Am Shelby Lynne then everything else from that album onwards.

That division isn’t my idea. She recorded her first album in 1989 and after the release of her third in 1991 she won the Academy of Country Music Top New Female Vocalist award. Two more albums follow before a hiatus in career between 1995 and 1999. Following the release of I Am Shelby Lynne, she won the Best New Artist award at the 2001 Grammy Awards. “Thirteen years and six albums to get here,” she wryly noted in her speech.

That, therefore, is my starting point. It was the first Shelby Lynne album I heard. I have listened to some of her earlier output and it’s for the most part straightforward country. I’m not familiar enough to be able to comment on it, so I am starting at album six and should anyone wish to recommend ten songs from the first five albums, please list them in the comments. I’ve seen Shelby a few times and she doesn’t play material from that first part of her career, so it appears she too regards that as a completely separate era and one to be forgotten.

There is also the geographical divide. She was based in Nashville for the first part of her career, while the second phase took off in L.A. It’s interesting to note that Shelby has now returned to Nashville.

What is abundantly clear is that the Shelby Lynne from 1999 on is a completely different musical creature from the earlier version. She no longer can be put in a box, because with the release of each album you don’t know what Shelby will be giving you: soul, rock, gospel, country blues, pop or something else. The only given is that she will have a vision that she wants to share with her audience.


I Am Shelby Lynne received significant critical acclaim on release. It was produced by Bill Bottrell who gives it a very precise feel. A friend noted around the time the album came out that every song is a complete composition and they come to a precise end and don’t just fade out. That is largely because most tracks are orchestrated and so will be scored for the musicians. On a couple of tracks the sound is an almost Spectorish Wall Of Sound – though there is none of the bombast that you might associate with such a production.

My first choice comes from I Am Shelby Lynne and is titled Thought It Would Be Easier. The live performance is not as polished as the studio version but Shelby brings a more soulful dimension to it. The third verse lyric goes:

I found that old shirt you used to wear
And it really brought me down
Ooh does she like blue like I do

Then she really hits her target, with the withering:

I bet she gets around, oh I know she does

Sadly, the critical acclaim wasn’t matched by commercial success.


The acclaim Shelby had received went into reverse with the release of her follow up, Love, Shelby. Released in 2001, critical reaction was fairly lukewarm and sales were negligible. This record was produced by Glen Ballard, then a hot producer having worked on Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill and its follow up. He was unable to work similar commercial magic with Shelby, though I think it’s a highly creditable follow up.

The stand out song for me is Jesus On A Greyhound. Is it a work of imagination or a retelling of a real experience? It doesn’t matter because the truth is in her delivery.

The YouTube clip is from a FarmAid gig. The recorded volume is a bit low, so turn up the sound because it’s a very fine performance, well worth hearing.


Going through this Toppermost ten it’s also clear this is also the story of many hairstyles.

Here’s Shelby with something more contemplative; the mesmeric Loser Dreamer from 2010’s Tears, Lies, And Alibis. She doesn’t appear in the video (it’s possible the child is her but I have no idea).

The song is absolutely beautiful and demonstrates Shelby’s ability to reach into a lyric and find beauty in a song that is about isolation and rejection.

What he don’t want he ain’t missing
Leaves more time for reminiscing
He don’t have nothing but time
To dream on


The theme of rejection had been visited a few years earlier in her album Identity Crisis (which was released in 2003) in the song I Don’t Think So. Shelby despairs at a lover’s treatment of her, but there’s a touch of defiance and …

Your eyes were cold and they always will
Cut me up in pieces
Same old lines, same old lies
You cut me up in pieces
But this time somethings changed in me
I got some courage somewhere

Unfortunately, there is no recorded live performance so the video clip is simply the album track with the album sleeve (and a different hairstyle). The album also marked Shelby taking over the record production as well as performance.


The follow up two years later in 2005 was Suit Yourself. This is a far more rocky album and features among its players Tony Joe White who gets a co-write as well as having Rainy Night In Georgia covered, though it’s listed simply as Track 12. It’s also notable for a song Shelby wrote about Johnny Cash and June Carter, When Johnny Met June. My selection is another song about the disintegration of a relationship, You Don’t Have A Heart.


One of the most significant relationships in Shelby’s life is that with her sister, the singer Allison Moorer. (Shelby’s full name is Shelby Lynne Moorer.) Enough has been written about their tragedy without me going there. Allison’s album Blood can tell you all you need to know.

I’ll Hold Your Head is a gorgeous song (performed in the clip with, as she says, “some OK players”). It recalls happy times with their mother and is suffused with love for her and for Allison.

It’s from the album Revelation Road which is, for the most part, solely performed by Shelby who also produced it. Some reviewers felt that this limited her musical palette, while to me it elevates the intimacy and power of the songs.


The title track of the I Can’t Imagine album from 2015 is almost certainly inspired by Allison’s divorce from Steve Earle.

I can’t imagine how you’re feeling
I can’t imagine what’s been going on
I know it’s hard for you this evening
To cry the blues out loud until they’re gone

It’s another beautiful song by Shelby and there’s a lovely performance on YouTube (below) though frustratingly a superb studio session with a band that was available around the time of the album’s release has disappeared. However, this live version is none too shabby


Given the closeness of their relationship, it’s surprising that the sisters took until 2017 to release an album together. Prior to this, as far as I know, the only recorded collaboration between them is on Allison’s live album Show where Shelby joins her for three songs.

This 2017 album, Not Dark Yet, was almost entirely covers. Bob Dylan provided the title track and there were versions of, among others, Nick Cave, the Louvin Brothers and, controversially, Nirvana. I say controversially because, tonally, the song Lithium was so different from anything else on the album. One reviewer apparently had gone so far as suggest that it shouldn’t be on the album, which is pretty presumptuous and a comment that annoyed Shelby immensely.

I know this because my wife and I went to see Allison and Shelby when they toured in support of the album. At Cadogan Hall in London, when they came to performing Lithium she turned to the audience, scanning the rows of seats, and wondered out loud if the writer “had the ball-bag” to turn up that night. She looked frighteningly furious. I think had I written those words I would have discreetly slid right down in my seat just to make sure our eyes didn’t meet.

The song I’ve gone for is the only original on the album, a co-write between them titled Is It Too Much. Again, it relates to the darkness in their past.

You whisper what you never tell
Don’t you know you ain’t by yourself
I’m right here to help you lay it down


In 2020, Shelby released an album simply titled Shelby Lynne. Again, most of the instruments were played by Shelby who also produced it and of course wrote the songs. This is another genre shift as it is very much a soul album. She shows again what a great vocal performer she is in the way she sounds totally natural as a soul singer without having to strain for effect.

It ranks in my opinion as one of her best albums. Simply beautiful. Don’t Even Believe In Love is the track I have taken from it.


For my final choice I am going back to I Am Shelby Lynne. There is such a great live version of the song recorded with Daryl Hall for the series Live From Daryl’s House that it can’t be left out. The song is Leavin’. Click play and enjoy this fabulous performance. Despite the seasonal decor, it’s a song to be enjoyed at every season.


Shelby also produced an album of Dusty Springfield covers, Just A Little Lovin’. Unfortunately, the ten song limit means I can’t fit anything from it in, though I’d have gone for Shelby’s version of I Don’t Want To Hear It Anymore if I were to make a selection. There’s also a live album. The audio version only is Live At McCabe’s. There is a DeLuxe version simply titled Live that includes a DVD of a performance at The Union Chapel in London, which makes a great souvenir for me as I was there the night it was recorded.

More recently, Shelby has produced two albums only available via iTunes or through streaming. The first, The Healing, was on Spotify but has disappeared. I have provided a link here to Extreme Music, where it can be heard. The other, The Servant, a gospel album is still available on Spotify and Extreme Music.

I should also mention there was a Christmas Album released back in 2010. I have never listened to it so can’t pass comment.

Shelby has gone full circle and returned to Nashville. I think she’s now looking to write songs and get them recorded by other artists as much as make her own music. Given how hard it is for musicians to make a living these days, I don’t blame her but I really hope she does continue to record her own songs and perform them live. The world is a much richer place with Shelby Lynne singing in it.



Shelby Lynne photo 2

Shelby & Allison


Shelby Lynne official website

Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer website

SecondHandSongs: Shelby Lynne

Shelby Lynne at Discogs

Shelby Lynne biography (AllMusic)

Carl Parker originated in Chester but has lived in north London since 1981. He’s unusual in these times in not subscribing to any social media, but contributes to sites like The Afterword and used to contribute to No Depression before it turned into an elitist institution. He’s recently retired and enjoys a relaxed life, where listening to new music is a recurring pleasure.

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