Just a Little Lovin'
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2008, Volume 15, #1
Written by John Metzger
Mon January 28, 2008, 06:45 AM CST
Shelby Lynne hasnít remained in one place for very long. It matters very little, however, whether the alterations to her style were driven by her own creative instincts or by the whims of the record labels for which she has recorded. The bottom line is that the twists and turns that she increasingly has taken with her work ó as well as the ups and downs that went right along with them ó arenít terribly different from the pathways that Dusty Springfield had followed over the course of the 30-odd years she spent in the music business. In fact, coming in the wake of her 2005 effort Suit Yourself ó on which she not only offered the country-soul tune I Cry Everyday but also collaborated with songwriter/guitarist Tony Joe White ó Lynneís latest sojourn Just a Little Loviní makes perfect sense.
Tackling nine songs that her predecessor had interpreted in her prime while adding one new composition, Lynne uses Just a Little Loviní to pay tribute to Springfield without completely copping the British interpreterís hit-seeking approach. Although she draws mostly from Springfieldís foray into R&B ó several of the albumís tracks were culled from the seminal 1969 outing Dusty in Memphis ó Lynneís country-imbued roots as well as her pop-oriented aspirations are never far from reach. The duo undeniably are kindred spirits, but Lynne subtly turns the tables by singing most of the material with an air of sad, desperate longing rather than one of tender seduction. Even the once-perky single I Only Want to Be with You is given a relaxed, melancholy framework.
Unfortunately, Just a Little Loviní never quite succeeds in its mission, though, at the same time, it also never completely fails. The problems with the album stem almost entirely from the arrangements that surround Lynneís voice. Itís expected that they would be polished and precise, with each note fitting squarely into a predetermined and proper place. Nevertheless, there remains a lifeless, generic quality to many of them, and this inevitably sinks at least a portion of the affair. On You Donít Have to Say You Love Me, for example, the music is so polite that it sounds as if Lynne is conjuring Barbra Streisand rather than Dusty Springfield, and the umpteenth rendition of Burt Bacharach and Hal Davidís The Look of Love might as well have been recorded by Diana Krall.
Thereís no doubt that Just a Little Loviní was designed specifically to showcase Lynneís commanding vocal presence, and fortunately, it largely achieves this goal. Sounding a lot like the version of Joss Stone that was revealed on The Soul Sessions ó as opposed to the overly emotive diva that has turned up ever since ó Lynne delivers the title track and I Donít Want to Hear It Anymore with stunning perfection, her voice standing in sharp contrast to the generally unsupportive music.
The highlights of Just a Little Loviní, however, are Breakfast in Bed and Willie and Laura Mae Jones, during which the arrangements finally engage Lynne directly. Sliding neatly into the middle of the set, these tunes provide an indication about how much promise was left unfulfilled, and they leave the listener to ponder what might have happened if Lynne had attempted to interpret Silver Threads and Golden Needles or Son of a Preacher Man. Indeed, Just a Little Loviní might have fared better if Lynne and producer Phil Ramone had favored inspiration over reverence.
Of Further Interest...
Just a Little Lovin' is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box