Bentley's Bandstand: Shelby Lynne, Moby Grape, Lay Low

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billbentley110BY BILL BENTLEY

Shelby Lynne, Tears, Lies And Alibis, Everso Records

When you want to get the job done, to really nail it to the wall so there will never be a chance it has to be redone, bring in the pro. Someone who’s been there, done that and doesn’t have to make return visits. So when it comes to a woman professional who can sing soul, no matter what kind of songs are on the playlist, nowadays, that would be Shelby Lynne. Maybe that’s because she has such a close relationship with real pain, the kind that starts in the heart and radiates out in a way that will not be stopped. Shelby Lynne is able to luxuriate in the deepness of the experience itself. On Tears, Lies And Alibis, so much of the music involves that hurting thing it seems like the lady just isn’t going to get a break. But then light will break through the cloud, her rich and seductive voice goes to a place where survival seems possible, and the cycle of love starts all over again. That is an artist and a pro. Her new album is the first for her own label, and by the very act of breaking away from others and recording for herself, the feel of freedom is everywhere. Just knowing these are the songs she wants to sing with the musicians she wants to play them with, and no outside hand had any control of anything, it’s almost like an amen moment. Whether it’s the funky freshness of “Rains Came,” the passionate finality of “Alibi” or the harsh honesty of “Loser Dreamer,” the former Alabaman has discovered a way to channel everything through one of today’s most immediately overwhelming voices. That Lynne has been recording now for 20 years and is finding her own slipstream to bring her all the way home is a cause for our own joy, even with all the, yes, tears, lies and alibis that brought these powerful moments to life. During a recent television interview on The Tavis Smiley show, when Smiley was smiling and being mildly flirtatious, Shelby Lynne gave him a drop dead look, saying only, “Come on, man” in a game-ending voice. No matter if you see it coming, it is still a knockout punch to end any conversation. And only a pro knows when to throw it. The Queen lives.

Moby Grape, Live, Sundazed Records

This stellar ’60s San Francisco band’s heartbreaking demise is so well documented, the luckless tale often seems more celebrated than their mind-bending music. Maybe that’s because the group, during the hallucinatory apex of the Haight-Ashbury, wasn’t actually a part of the community. Their individual talents were formed in other places, so it almost seemed like a whole band of designated hitters, maybe even carpetbaggers to boot, was at the center. But so what? Everybody has to be from somewhere, right? Moby Grape also committed the grievous error of releasing a perfect album in the Summer of Love, and that wasn’t allowed either. Too commercial. The Grape’s future soured and got squished almost immediately, but not before sunshine-saturated songs like “8:05,” “Someday,” “Omaha,” “Changes” and “Indifference” showed the locals how to record timeless tracks. To this day, very few rock releases match that 1967 debut. Now, finally, a strong legitimate live collection surfaces, and it is shattering. Collected from Avalon Ballroom shows, their entire 4-song set at the Monterey International Pop Festival and a Netherlands radio broadcast, Live is exactly what it says: a turbulent but always beautiful journey through a seminal group’s brief life. It is mostly joyous in its rocking glimpse at the birth and death of a band. The last song, the legendary but never officially released “Dark Magic,” proves once and for all Moby Grape could ride the crest of acid-infused creativity with the best of them. At over 17 minutes, Skip Spence, Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis, Don Stevenson and Bob Mosley fly to the stars and back. That it was on December 31,1966–when this part of the Earth must have felt brand new and all possibilities endless–only adds to the vibrant poignancy of the sound. The Human Be-In was still two weeks away and all the good and not-so-good qualities of the exploding counterculture were soon to spread across the country. On this night and this song, though, there was probably no higher place to see the view of what was to come. And, most likely, Moby Grape knew it. Bless their pointed little hearts.

Lay Low, Farewell Good Night’s Sleep, Cargo Records

Chances are you have never heard of singer-songwriter Lovisa Elisabet Sigrunardottir, but there’s no way Lay Low isn’t going to fly into your radar. The Icelandic twenty-something shortened her name to that, and is about to break through the frozen curtain any month now with an absolutely arresting new album. Produced by Liam Watson, who also works with the White Stripes, James Hunter and Holly Golightly, he has made sure the gorgeous sound of this music is right where it belongs. The band, which includes steel guitarist and dobro player BJ Cole, is a perfect balance of ethereal sounds and rootsy beauty, while Lay Low’s voice floats on top of them, making a solid case for recent references to Patsy Cline’s magic and Dolly Parton’s power. But, really, Lay Low travels her own highway, and how could she not? Growing up in Iceland is a far cry from the American South, where her inspirations originate. The young woman had to fashion an approach to this music filtered through a completely different world. The 2006 debut album Please Don’t Hate Me announced a new star was forming then, but it didn’t quite make it to the States. Now that Farewell Good Night’s Sleep has, it is only a matter of time before Lay Low’s voice finds a nation of new fans, maybe one at a time, because there hasn’t been anyone this fresh in awhile. When someone like Lucinda Williams calls you “by far one of best new artists I’ve seen in years,” it’s time to look out. With all originals songs, except for a tear-jerking cover of Lefty Frizell’s “The Reason Why My Heart’s in Misery,” there is no way someone who can sing like her life is an open book and write like she’s tapped into the zone can miss. Lay Low is going way high.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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