SOPAC Showcases Grammy Winner Shelby Lynne

Shelby Lynne brings her eclectic songbook to the South Orange Performing Arts Center Wednesday.

"I like running my own label. Even if I'm the only artist on it. It's so much easier for me to be the one who makes decisions, than have a bunch of people who don't know anything about music, tell me what I should be doing. When you're on a major label, you're lucky if you can put out one disc a year. I know the kind of music I want to make. So it makes sense that I'm calling the shots."

If you know anything about feisty and eclectic singer/songwriter, Shelby Lynne, these words, uttered with the faintest traces of an Alabama accent, don't come as a shock. Since her debut in 1989, Ms. Lynne has exhibited both the good manners and the "Don't Tread On Me!" spirit of her native South. Every time the record business has tried to bag her as, say, a country singer, she's gone and recorded John Lennon's harrowing "Mother," and made it even more harrowing. Or she's done an entire album of songs made famous by soul legend Dusty Springfield.

Trying to pigeonhole her would be a losing proposition.

Lynne brings her gorgeous voice, acoustic guitar and savagely-honest songs to the (SOPAC) on Wednesday on the latest stop of her tour in support of her latest album, Revelation Road.

When asked about her fabled Best New Artist Grammy, in 2000 (right person, wrong category), Lynne is typically tough and practical.

"Sure it was strange to win in that category, like, 13 years after I started recording. But getting a Grammy is really helpful in business terms. First, it's nice to know that people in the industry have voted for you. But it also helps to promote your name. In some ways you need to be a known commodity in our business. So, if more people know my name, because of the award, and come to my shows, it's a good thing."

If you know Lynne, all the attitude and rebel-yell defiance are cool, but what you ultimately care about is the music. On her latest record, she once again serves up songs that mix soul music, pure pop and country in ways that may baffle radio programmers, but thrill fans who don't need to be spoon-fed sounds one recognizable mouthful at a time. Check out the almost Beach Boys-y "Rains Came," or the Dusty-In-Memphis groove of "Why Didn't You Call Me?" and know that every confused playlist geek's loss is our gain.

And don't call her country.

"My first big hit was a duet with (country legend) George Jones. As much as it got things started for me, I think it may have confused some listeners. Obviously, I love that kind of music, but I don't think of myself as a country singer."

As for the future? Well, there's that album that Lynne wants to do with her sister, singer/songwriter Allison Moorer. But mostly she has her sights set on letting the people know who she really is and what she actually does.

"I'm always a little surprised, that people come out to see me, knowing my name, but not much about the kind of music I sing. I think playing at a small theatre, just me and my guitar, is a great opportunity to change that. With luck, the people that come because of curiosity, or the Grammy, will leave as something else. Fans, hopefully."

An Intimate Evening With Shelby Lynne will be performed at SOPAC on Wednesday, March 28 at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are $55, $35 ($50, $30 for SOPAC members) and are available online on SOPAC's website or by phone by calling (973) 313-ARTS (2787).  The box office is located in the main lobby Monday - Saturday from 12-6 p.m.


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