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Singer Shelby Lynne finds herself a quieter 'Identity'

When musicians make a "stripped-down record," that sometimes means they couldn't afford anything else. But for Shelby Lynne, it was an artistic decision.

"I think too many people are overproduced these days," she says. "It was just my taste to do something different. I wanted to get back to the songs. I wanted to communicate without a lot of noise beating into your brain."

She succeeds admirably on "Identity Crisis," a new CD coming out Sept. 16. Lynne will preview songs from the CD at the Paradise tomorrow during the River's (WXRV-FM, 92.5) birthday bash that also stars Jesse Malin and Steadman.

"We're not conditioned to hearing music without a lot of noise," says Lynne, who earned a best new artist Grammy for her 2000 disc, "I Am Shelby Lynne," though she faltered on her next release, "Love, Shelby," produced by the slick Glen Ballard. It was an example of an overproduced record, or at least many of her fans thought so, and it bombed. Lynne says now that "I was forced into doing it too fast, but I enjoyed the experience. Glen is a great talent." And she adds the record label offered meager support and "didn't even know it existed."

She's on a new label now, Capitol Records. And the new release is a deeply affecting, acoustic-based record that blends pop, rock, and country with a folk edge. She plays all of the guitars (some electric) with minimal backup, other than some strings and bass and Little Feat's masterful Bill Payne on keyboards. The songs run from the Patsy Cline-like "Lonesome" to the plaintive "If I Were Smart" (written after finding out that her best friend was diagnosed with brain cancer) and the punchy "I'm Alive," about wanting an ex-lover back. Lynne is at her blunt, imagery-rich best when she sings, "Oh, if I don't get you back, I'll fall upon a railroad track and let the steel wheels cut right through my bones."

Not many people write like that these days, but Lynne has never fit in with the crowd. The Alabama-bred singer, who now lives in Palm Springs, Calif., ("I just ended up driving there and liked it, so I stayed") prepped the songs in her home studio, in between moments in the 18-foot-wide tepee she has in her backyard. "I just always wanted a tepee since I was a kid," she says. "It's very peaceful."

The new album should rekindle her critic's-fave status, though she isn't sure what radio programmers will think of it. "I certainly don't worry about radio," Lynne says. "What's the point? You take what you get and don't hold your breath. It's not the reason I make records. All I know is that I'm very happy with the record I made."

Caught in the clubs: Cul de Sac at the Lizard Lounge: The band dedicated its set to the recently deceased Howard Armstrong, a musician whose imagination never wavered as he lived into his 90s. Cul de Sac dug deep with sweetly elegiac playing that featured a customized violin, but later built the tension (and volume) with heady, avant-garde electronics that didn't totally mesh but suggested an unfettered imagination of which Armstrong would have approved.

Mistle Thrush at T.T. the Bear's: A fixture on the city's progressive rock scene, Mistle Thrush celebrated its 10th anniversary with singer Valerie Forgione (also known for her work with the Boston Rock Opera) showing some of the most versatile pipes since the dream-pop heyday of Kate Bush. Drummer Todd Demma also kept a muscular beat beneath all the dreamscapes. This band remains a local treasure.

David Johnston at the Independent: Johnston is an artful chameleon. He recently finished a Wednesday residency at the Independent in Somerville, where he played with a variety of musicians from week to week and adroitly changed styles from harder-edged rock to whispery folk country to a starkly contemporary, Soul Coughing-like percussion sound. Johnston is one of the most underrated musicians in town.

Woodpile at Toad: Boston is filled with roots music acts, but here's one of the best. Led by the songwriting team of Holt Hopkins and Gene McAuliffe, Woodpile unveiled some excellent, Americana-tinged original songs (the standout "Nashville" soared on a bluegrassy rock tempo) and some wonderfully transformed covers, including the Band's "Ophelia." Moreover, Woodpile's instrumental prowess was as strong as its vocals.

Shania Twain has sold out her Oct. 7 FleetCenter show. It's not likely that another will be added . . . Pat Metheny is at the Somerville Theatre on Nov. 13. Tickets are on sale today . . . Radio station WBCN-FM (104.1) has a free back-to-school show at the Hatch Shell on Sept. 6 with Big D & the Kids Table and Less Than Jake, starting at 1:30 p.m. . . . A new John Mayer album will be out Sept. 9. . . . John Pizzarelli, known for singing the Foxwoods ad "The Wonder of It All," is at the Holiday Inn in Brookline on Oct. 24 to benefit the Barry L. Price Rehabilitation Center. Tickets available at 781-238-1480 . . . Phish's recent "It" Festival in Maine drew 60,000 people and grossed $8.25 million, according to Billboard. . . . Tonight: Out Cold and Drug War at the Choppin' Block, Dave Chappelle at the South Shore Music Circus, Mac McAnally (from Jimmy Buffett's band) at the House of Blues, the Coalboilers at Harpers Ferry, Chris Fitz at the Sea Note in Hull. . . . Tomorrow: Quintaine Americana at the Linwood, Rachel Loshack at Club Passim, Rajas at the Midway Cafe, and the Boston Funk Cruise leaves from Long Wharf at 8:30 p.m. . . . Sunday: Dave Foley at Toad (his last area gig before moving to Nashville), Rose Polenzani at the Campfire Festival at Club Passim, Monster Mike Welch at the Sea Note, Patty Loveless at Indian Ranch in Webster, and Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington. . . . Tuesday: Rachel McCartney starts a Tuesday residency at Toad, 7-9 p.m. . . . Wednesday: Roots-rockers the Blazers at T. T. the Bear's, Jason Mraz at the Roxy.

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