Material and voice make an exquisite pairing in Shelby Lynne’s visitation to the work of Dusty Springfield. Backed by bare-boned yet ample instrumentation, Lynne opts to play soul diva as Springfield did on the classic “Dusty in Memphis.” Hers is a grittier effort than its predecessor from four decades ago: Both singers reduced their ample range to squeeze their voices within the lyrics, yet clearly there’s a difference between a country-trained singer and a British pop star reveling in them same material
Changing times and mores equally affect the songs, penned by the likes of Bacharach & David, Randy Newman, Tony Joe White and the leaders of the Rascals. “Breakfast in Bed” and the title track, in particular, no longer possess the nudge-nudge wink sexuality that Springfield imbued them with. Lynne dives in with a sense of craving and exhaustion; her mornings follow nights of intense passion and her willingness to express desire only helps expand between-the-lines readings of these songs.
After a few listens the mind stops trying to find the strings and background singers of the originals and accepts these versions on their own. Album closes on a tender reading of “How Can I Be Sure,” the Rascals hit that Springfield gave a Vegas-via-Paris feel in 1970, rendered here with just Dean Parks’ acoustic guitar gently trailing Lynne’s supple vocals.
It’s a cohesive effort emboldened by one original, “Pretend,” a folk-infused plea for a lover’s attention. And in an era when sonic detail is given the short shrift, Phil Ramone and Al Schmitt have created a gem of a recording, its brilliance evident on the home stereo, in the car and on MP3.