It happened in early 2001, when Lynne took Best New Artist honors at the 49th annual Grammy Awards gala in Los Angeles. Competing against million-selling newcomers like Sisqo and Macy Gray, Lynne seemed like a long shot. Many pundits believed the singer's acclaimed 2000 album, I Am Shelby Lynne, was too ruggedly individualistic to win Grammy approval. But Lynne's astounding Grammy victory was an inspiring David-and-Goliath tale that inspired fans of roots-based country, soul and folk.
In the wake of her Grammy victory, Lynne's assertive album title seemed more like a triumphant declaration; a strong-willed statement of intent. For a decade, Lynne was a "Nashville misfit" struggling to find a niche within the formal country music system. But when the singer was introduced to producer Bill Bottrell, the pair struck up an immediate and powerful creative partnership. Throwing restraint to the wind, Lynne composed soulful songs that ran the stylistic spectrum. She collaborated with legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb (composer of pop classics like "Wichita Lineman" and "MacArthur Park").
The result was I Am Shelby Lynne, a defiantly retro collection with a keen modern edge. Songs like "Easier," "Dreamsome," and "Black Light Blue" reveal echoes of early '60s pop, Memphis r&b and Dinah Washington-style jazz. The disc leaves an indelible mark on everyone fortunate enough to hear it. Entertainment Weekly called Lynne's masterpiece "the first great album of the new millennium" while Newsweek described the disc as "a soulful, bluesy, rapturous declaration of independence."
Now the music world awaits Lynne's forthcoming new album with baited breath. If her Grammy-winning fifth album is any indication, Lynne's new disc will further redefine country music. "I'm not really one to play by the rules," Lynne recently told Rolling Stone magazine. "I like to live by the seat of my [pants]."