Three years ago, Shelby Lynne knew exactly who she was — “I Am Shelby Lynne,” her album firmly claimed. Now, she’s not so sure — her new Capitol release is titled “Identity Crisis.” At the House of Blues, Lynne’s performance was another attempt at self-definition. Stepping away from the honky-tonks, Lynne is now presenting herself as a confessional singer-songwriter — Joni Mitchell with a twang.
After the stiff, sexual posturing of her last tour, Lynne seems firmly at home in her own skin and has become a more sensual figure onstage for it. The emotions in her new songs draw blood, and her performance has the unguarded honesty of therapy.
After opening with the breathless declaration of “I’m Alive,” the show mostly remained on a slow, purposeful boil. “If I Were Smart” took on added vulnerability, and “Telephone” found a more soulful, bluesier groove. These songs keep Lynne close to the lower end of her register; combined with her simple phrasing, her performance feels startlingly exposed. Only the “Dusty in Memphis” country soul of “Your Lies” found her pulling out all the vocal stops.
Although the energy sometimes flagged, Lynne’s vocals were never less than absorbing. A cover of “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” late in the hourlong set put the evening into perspective. Lynne is moving toward Willie Nelson’s flinty country. And she has the voice to pull it off.