Shelby Lynne has melded country, pop and soul music on her last four albums, so it must've seemed a no-brainer for her to record a tribute to the sultry songs made popular by the legendary Dusty Springfield.
Where even Springfield's darkest songs during the 1960s and '70s were delivered almost chirpily and framed by grand Phil Spector-style arrangements, Lynne and producer Phil Ramone have embraced a jazz-blues sparseness on this CD.
For instance, the verging-on-screechy girl-group vocals of Springfield's "Anyone Who Had a Heart" are absent in Lynne's version. Singing solo, she sounds positively restrained, and a good deal classier, backed only by down-tempo brushes on drums, a lightly plucked acoustic guitar and stately piano. "I Only Want to Be With You" gets a breezy, almost Brazilian treatment, and "I Don't Want to Hear It Anymore" has an elegant supper-club vibe.
"The Look of Love" and the title track both balance tortured romance with aching aural beauty, flirting with a dark-night-of-the-soul mood. The focus here is on the deep emotional qualities of Lynne's voice and her rich interpretations of the classic material.
As great as Springfield's music was, most of the tracks on Lynne's disc improve on the originals. Springfield had so many delicious hits (and non-hits) that diehard fans are likely to yearn to hear Lynne's approaches to songs not included here, like "No Easy Way Down," "Wishin' and Hopin'," "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself" and, most of all, "Son of a Preacher Man."
The last one is maybe too iconic to cover, but there's more than enough left in Springfield's songbook for a second volume.