** Shelby Lynne @ Abbey Pub, ( 773 ) 478-4408, Oct. 21
After finding an identity with which her fans ( and Grammy voters ) could agree on on her universally acclaimed 2000 album I Am Shelby Lynne, the singer/songwriter who has been compared to Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow and even a newcomer such as Norah Jones, took a brief detour. Her glossy and overproduced follow-up, Love, Shelby, got almost no love. But fear not. Prepare to fall in love with Shelby Lynne again through her new album Identity Crisis ( Capitol ) . Opening with the bare-bones 'Telephone,' a song that rings gently off the hook, Lynne pitches her own tent revival on '10 Rocks,' and will literally bring you to tears on 'If I Were Smart' ( complete with a Tin Man reference ) . More hard-earned tears follow on 'I Don't Think So,' but Lynne also tries to look on the bright in 'Gotta Be Better,' 'I'm Alive,' and the hopeful 'Baby' and 'One With The Sun.' The album's centerpiece, 'Lonesome,' is a career high that recalls Patsy Cline and reminds us of the creative capabilities of Shelby Lynne.
Gregg Shapiro: You produced your new album Identity Crisis. How did it feel for you to be at the helm?
Shelby Lynne: Really good. It was really easy for me. I didn't have anyone to argue with but myself ( laughs ) . It worked out just right.
GS: Identity Crisis is being released by Capitol Records, which has a long history of being home to great pop and country artists, such as Rosanne Cash, and now you, Shelby Lynne. What does it mean to you to be recording for Capitol?
SL: It's really great. I'll tell you it's probably the most pleasant record experience I've ever had, and that's saying a lot. I've had a lot of labels in my career. But they're really good. They're happening. They're hip to finding ways to do things with this record and it really feels good. They're a nice group of people.
GS: Do you feel like they are being sensitive to your needs as an artist?
SL: Oh, yeah. Yes, they understand the record. They understand me. There's none of that, 'We don't know what to do with you.' It's, 'We'll find what to do with you.'
GS: Rufus Wainwright has two songs about telephones on his new CD …
GS: Yes. And you open Identity Crisis with the song 'Telephone.' What do you think it is about telephones that inspires people to write songs about them?
SL: That's a good question. I don't know. I've written several songs about telephones myself. Maybe it's the way that we use phones to communicate. My song ( 'Telephone' ) was written about, 'I wish you hadn't been at home when the telephone rang,' because after many, many cocktails at night, you'll make that call that you wished you hadn't made. It's something that's a part of all of our worlds.
GS: 'If I Were Smart' and 'I Don't Think So' are two examples of your boundless gift for writing heartbreaking songs about, well, heartbreak. Why do you think you are so good at writing those kinds of songs?
SL: I write from experience, so I guess that I've had a lot of heartbreak. You know, I've had a lot of other things, too. ( But ) those were easy songs for me to write.
GS: So, is it easier to write about the heartbreaking stuff?
SL: In those particular situations it was, yeah.
GS: 'Lonesome' recalls Patsy Cline's Owen Bradley sessions. What role did Patsy Cline play in the kind of artist that you are?
SL: People call Patsy a country singer, but I just call Patsy a great singer. Just because she made records in Nashville didn't make her country. Unfortunately, we didn't have her around long enough to really know her personality. We just know a little bit. But she seemed very strong and in charge and, of course, the records were brilliant. Her gift as a singer was immeasurable.
GS: Do you think it's possible that some day people will say that Shelby Lynne had the same kind of musical influence that Patsy Cline did?
SL: ( laughs ) Oh my God, I don't know. I might have to die first.
GS: No, don't do that!
SL: It's nice that you would say something like that. But, I don't know. We'll just have to see, I guess.
GS: Speaking of influences, you contributed a track, 'The Seeker,' to the Dolly Parton tribute album Just Because I'm A Woman. What kind of influence would you say that Dolly Parton had on you?
SL: Huge. I think Dolly Parton's the greatest star in our business. She's continually brilliant. She's got it all. She's talented; she's a female that writes. Of course she's a brilliant singer, but she's a star, too. It's one thing to be a singer and a songwriter, but then when you're Dolly, you kind of sew it up ( laughs ) .
GS: I know that Identity Crisis is just coming out now, but have you had time to start writing songs and to think about your next album?
SL: Oh God, yeah. All I do is write, man. I hope that they'll be something. When I write a song I just put them in the pile and wait for the next time and then I see how I feel about them then. I just compile things. When I get ready to record, I just look at what I've stored away.
GS: So, when you perform on your tour, do you ever throw in any new, unrecorded songs?
SL: No, I don't like to do that. It's a little soon.
GS: Speaking of touring, in 2000, you toured with k.d. lang. Do you think that had an impact on the size of your queer following?
SL: I have no idea. I just do a show. I enjoyed being out there with k.d.; she's phenomenal. A crowd's a crowd's a crowd. I love to play to everybody.