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Critical darling Shelby Lynne has a new album due Oct. 18 called Revelation Road, and the title track (available now via iTunes) is a taste from what the Grammy winner is calling her most personal album ever. Is it a winner, or does it fail to come close to anything released during her artistic peak more than a decade ago?

Lyrics: Lynne’s protagonist reviews her past mistakes, such as “acting on her passion/wearing the latest fashion,” to convey how she’s rising above in a who-cares sort of manner. She also turns the struggle between who is right — the sinners or the saints — into a shrug-off by essentially saying live your life your own way because no one should judge you. In another verse, though, Lynne sings, “one Hail Mary does the trick/forgived of all your sins.” Well, which one is it? Are you living your life by your own rules, or do we pray for forgiveness? Despite the lyrical seesawing, the song is not a Trojan horse carrying false preaching — it’s just a positive message.

Music/arrangement: The song’s title instantly conjures up images of bombastic gospel choirs, tambourine flourishes and an over-the-top lead vocal. Admirably — and true to her artistic nature as a Nashville, Tenn., rebel — Lynne keeps everything stripped down and soulful.
Brisk brush drumming and a jangling mandolin are the standout instruments. The sparseness and lack of bombast provide a nice contrast to the mixed messages in the lyrics. A song like this would normally have a big drum break and slide-guitar shower to play up the religious themes, but it’s devoid of both. And by keeping it at a slower tempo (as opposed to a church-style rave-up), the song doesn’t completely resort to cliché. The outro drops the drums and veers into a call-and-response of “revelation” — not exactly a surprise — but that’s a much more tolerable way to fade out.

Production: Cool, calm and clear best describes the sound of this song, which Lynne produced. There isn’t a ton of reverb to accentuate the chorus, and there are no extra sound effects to accentuate the song’s theme.

Verdict: Crank it. Why not? “Revelation Road” doesn’t break new ground, but it does keep Lynne in her comfort zone — and as past efforts have shown, that ain’t a bad place to be.

— By Mike Madden