There’s not many songs, particularly of the pop or country variety, that I am not at least acquainted with. However, when I first heard Taylor Hicks singing some song about Alabama, my ears perked up from curiosity. It was from one of those “sessions” before AI. After a bit of research, I found out that the song, Where I’m From, was written and performed by Shelby Lynne, who is labeled a Country artist.
Amazingly, I also found out that Shelby grew up in Jackson, AL, just north of Mobile. Her backstory is quite compelling. She grew up with a musical family with her father being a musician and her mother, a music teacher. At 17, her alcoholic father shot and killed her mother and then himself, rendering her and her little sister Allison, to the custody of relatives. After a brief marriage at 18, Shelby set out for Nashville and at 20, ended up recording a duet with Country Music icon George Jones, If I Could Bottle This Up, in 1988.
While success seemed inevitable, Shelby didn’t seem to “catch on” until her breakout album I am Shelby Lynne in 2000. This album, a rebellion from her label over artistic control, ended up winning her a Grammy for “Best New Artist”, although she’d been in the business over 10 years. This CD has a variety of styles and genres, but Where I’m From, is clearly an acoustical country gem.
I love this song and love the instrumentation. Violins and steel guitar. The bridge towards the end kept evoking a familiar tune to me that took me a while to pinpoint, but I finally got it.
Sleep Walk, Santo & Johnny Farino
Back to Where I’m From. When I attended the Taylor Hicks concert in Mobile, back in February, he included his version as an encore.
Taylor butchers the lyrics in several places (as usual), but when I first heard the refrain, I thought it was some kind of pig latin. Once I looked up the lyrics, I recognized it as French, although the lyrics are listed phonetically. Evidently, Shelby Lynne has some Cajun in her somewhere because that refrain is in the French of my ancestors.
Elégamment les bateaux passent en banc, On la flotte avec du vent
Which translates loosely to: “Elegantly the boats pass the bank, They float by with the wind.” Now, I don’t know about you, but that French phrase is not remotely close to what I hear Taylor saying. I give him an A for effort, though, and an A+ for great taste in tunes that kun-NECKS.
This song particularly resonates with me because I live in Alabama and can relate to all Shelby sings about but the French verses are what reels me in. I’m a sucker for my heritage and all that entails, particularly the wonderful Cajun French language that I was raised with. I thought you all might like to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak….so here it is.
Anyway, pay some attention to Shelby. You might recognize her as Carrie Cash (Johnny’s Mother) in Walk the Line. She has rebelled against the music industry a number of times and is currently working on a tribute CD dedicated to Dusty Springfield (produced by Barry Manilow).
I Only Want to Be With You
Her sister is Allison Moorer, a Country artist who had an Alabama song of her own. Allison is married to Steve Earle. (yes, we’re all related somehow down here.)
and she sings a tune that might be a little familiar:
A Change Gone Come, Allison Moorer
Lastly, here’s another Shelby Lynne song off of the I Am Shelby Lynne CD that is primo.
Shelby’s an original and definitely NOT a one-trick pony. Here’s a recent collaboration with the band Live.
These two Alabama ladies are extremely talented.