Shelby Lynne decided to record an album of Dusty Springfield songs at the suggestion of “my friend Barry Manilow.”
We’ll wait a second while you read that sentence again.
It was indeed Manilow, one of kings of middle-of-the-road pop, who gave Lynne, a maverick country singer turned wideranging artist, the idea for “Just a Little Lovin’,” her 10th studio album and a tribute that features nine Springfield favorites and one Lynne original, “Pretend.”
“I had just finished a record (2005’s ‘Suit Yourself’),” Lynne, 39, recalls, “so hearing about doing another record, I just went, ‘Oh, no, I can’t even think about it.’ That was my initial thing.
“Then a year or a year and a half later, it came that time again to do another record, and I remembered what (Manilow) suggested and thought, ‘Why the hell not?’ ”
Lynne does, however, find it surprising when people are surprised she’s friendly enough with Manilow to get suggestions from him.
“He’s a friend of mine; we’ve known each other for years,” Lynne says. “He’s very smart. He’s funny. He’s such a gentleman. ...We hit it off the first time we ever met, and we’ve been pals ever since.” A relationship like that certainly fits into Lynne’s eventful life and career. Born Shelby Lynne Moorer in Virginia and raised mostly in Alabama, Lynne’s singing supported both her and her younger sister, fellow singer Allison Moorer, after their alcoholic father fatally shot their mother and then himself when Lynne was 17. She signed her first recording contract in 1987, first dueting with George Jones, then releasing her debut album, “Sunrise,” in 1989.
Her career went through peaks and valleys during the ’90s, but her 1999 release “I Am Shelby Lynne” drew rave reviews for its personal lyrics and R&B-inflected sound and earned her a surprising Grammy Award for best new artist in 2001. Since then she’s enjoyed a rekindled profile, which she’s used not only for her own eclectic albums but also for collaborations with rock artists such as Live and Marc Cohn, as well as a spot on the Dean Martin tribute album “Forever Cool” — recording “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You” with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.
Lynne also played Carrie Cash in the 2005 Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line.”
Doing Dusty Springfield songs appealed to Lynne, she says, because “everybody loves Dusty. It’s just an honesty as a singer. I just believed her when I heard her sing something. I believed her
vulnerability and approach to a song.
You could tell she was really into what
______ she was singing.”
Lynne and producer Phil Ramone went through “lots of lists” of songs by the late British singer, figuring out which she wanted to record. Lynne picked four from the 1969 landmark “Dusty in Memphis” but also wanted “to show people she had more than just that one album, even though it’s the one most people know.” Lynne wound up with an equal number from “A Girl Called Dusty,” Springfield’s 1964 debut album.
The album’s sound, hushed and underproduced, was also important to Lynne. “It’s a fourpiece band with a singer and that’s it,” she explains. “They’re amazing songs, so having all the breathing room without putting a bunch of strings or horns or solos, even, just letting the songs tell the story. ...It was a lot of fun. We just let the tone of the songs guide us.”
As for “Pretend,” Lynne says that she really “didn’t feel like writing anything” but acquiesced when Ramone encouraged her to find something original to include.
“It was the only thing I had that would come close to being able to fit in there with these (Springfield) gems,” she says of the song, which is several years old. “Lyrically, I thought it was a song maybe Dusty would’ve cut; it kinda reminded me of the vulnerable lyric that she could sing so well.
“I made everybody vote in the studio — ‘Is it good enough, yay or nay? You can’t lie.’ And everybody thought it worked.”
For her shows in support of “Just a Little Lovin’,” Lynne is offering “a combination of this record and my others. I’ve got 20 years of records, after all. It’ll be different every night; the crowd is different every night, so you do what they want.” So far, however, there’s been an appetite for the Springfield material, which is just fine by Lynne.
“It’s an opportunity for me to sing these great songs and remind the world how great she was,” Lynne says. “I’m hoping that maybe her fans and mine could come together. I think those audiences would get along just fine.”
Shelby Lynne and David McMillin perform Tuesday (April 1st) at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25. Call (248) 544-3030 or visit www.themagicbag.com.
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