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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

October 21, 2003

Identity Crisis

I've given Shelby a couple of listens, and I think it's a nice record. It's odd to see that on CDDB she's categorised as a country artist - still. Obviously, I'd heard of her before "I am Shelby" as a country singer, but from that self-reinvention moment on she was more what you'd call a mainstream rock artist.

"Identity Crisis" is all about that, hence the title. She's touching bases without really fitting neatly into a category, which is how I'd define rock. Or you could call it AOR if you were a radio programmer. There are songs on "IC" which are country-ish, or you could argue she sounds like Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, or the Everly Brothers, who were all like Donny and Marie, a little bit Country and a little bit Rock and Roll.

But to categorise Shelby as a country artist for the rest of all time seems a bit harsh. I love the genre myself, but she's clearly been trying to get away from it for quite a few years now. She seems almost reluctant to be sharing the stage on her sister's "Show." It's as if, following Nashville Skyline and Self Portrait, Dylan was stuffed into the country section.

The instruments used on "IC" are your classic rock instruments: guitars, some with distortion/effects (so NOT country), Rhodes (again, you'll find real pianos on country records), and the ubiquitous B3. It all sounds very nice, and "One With the Sun," the final track, even put me in mind of melodiegroup - lyrically.

Personally I can't be bothered to delve into the lyrics much; I don't partic. care what it's all about. Something to do with splitting up with someone I imagine.

It did remind me that one of the reasons I don't know a whole lot about bands like Love and Television, I spent a long time listening to Buddy Holly, the Everlys, and odd things like the Shangri-Las and The Chiffons. So this record had a familiar vibe to me. There's a bit of Patsy Cline in there (one of the songs, "Lonesome," Shelby wrote as if Patsy was still alive and she was a pro songwriter).

But her identity? I've never been able to work her out. She looks different in almost every picture you see of her. Not in a Madonna "I'm doing this deliberately" way, but in a slightly disturbing, "I don't know who I am" kind of way.

All in all, this record is bound to appear on "Top 10 Albums of 2003" lists by the kind of people who produce annual lists of the top 10 albums/films. It will be seen as Country Lite for people who don't really like Country (who like rock, in other words); so in that sense she sits alongside Lyle Lovett, kd lang, Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams. Just hip enough to appeal to a Guardian reader, but a long way from being a favourite of mine.

I'll probably play this up to xmas and then sell it or give it away.


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