Shelby Lynne has strong opinions when it comes to new technology, although many of her arguments boil down to her belief that turntables are vastly superior to iPods. Her philosophy is based on pragmatic considerations (i.e., you can roll a joint on an album cover), but aesthetics play a role, too. Record players are good for staying put and paying attention to music's nuances.
Like any effective crusader, the Palm Springs–based singer and songwriter employs slogans of sorts. During a recent show in Nashville, she sported a T-shirt with a graphic symbolizing that iPods are not equal to turntables. She also declared, "It is my desire to bring that [vinyl] shit back," bragging about her efforts for the cause: Her 10th album, Just a Little Lovin' (released in January), was pressed on CD and vinyl.
This is a good time for Lynne to pontificate on the subject, considering Lovin' is another extension of her appreciation for the past. The album borrows all but one song — an original titled "Pretend" — from the luminous '60s pop repertoire of Dusty Springfield. Lynne chose enduring, vintage numbers like Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Anyone Who Had a Heart," and "I Don't Want to Hear It Anymore," written by Randy Newman and originally included on Springfield's 1969 landmark Dusty in Memphis. "They demand you hear them, because they're just so good," Lynne says. "They're compelling that way; they pull you in."
The songs have been covered plenty, but the way Lynne and producer Phil Ramone recorded them — letting things unfold naturally on analog tape with an intuitive, R&B-tinged combo — is newly ear-seducing. "I tell you what, we didn't have any arrangements or anything," Lynne says. "Once we settled into the groove of that thing, we knew we had a record and we had big eyes looking around the room. I'm such an in-the-moment, spontaneous, crazy fucker that I couldn't sit down and arrange anything."
Springfield had already cornered the market on magnificent, string-swathed renditions, so Lynne went for the less-is-more approach. The ten tracks on Lovin' sound thoroughly exposed, with plenty of ticklish pauses. When Lynne hangs her sultry voice out there during the a cappella intro of "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" or the title track's laid-bare interlude, the instrumental void around her creates a startling quiet that can engulf one person or an entire crowd.
Lynne also wanted to import the immediacy of the vinyl listening experience to her live shows. "It's one thing to sit around with a glass of wine and smoke a big fatty listening at home and hear all those pauses," she says. "It's another thing to be onstage and you got those pauses and you got all that air in the room and all of those human beings with you. It's like everybody's holding their breath at the same time."
It's those kinds of time-stopping moments that win even the high tech crusaders over to the Shelby Lynne cause.