Shelby Lynne is on a do-it-yourself mission from God.
The sultry Americana singer-songwriter wrote, performed and produced her latest album, “Revelation Road,” entirely by her lonesome and released it on own label. So it was fitting that Lynne’s appearance Tuesday night at the Birchmere featured nothing but Shelby Lynne, voice and guitar.
She showcased all 11 tracks of “Revelation,” and luckily the album is pretty great. Sonically lean and thematically introspective, it’s the culmination of a decade-long process, at times uneven, whereby Lynne has sought to nail down her musical essence.
Unlike a lot of recovering mainstream country singers, Lynne has never blamed Music Row for forcing her to be something she wasn’t. “I wanted to be Tammy Wynette ... big hair, big makeup,” she freely admitted Tuesday. She reinvented herself in the late-’90s, she said, out of simple necessity: She couldn’t find songs that suited her, so she wrote them herself.
Lynne offered up the first fruits of her post-reinvention phrase, the slow-grinding “Leavin’,” which exposed the limitations of the solo-acoustic presentation: Even a singer as accomplished as Lynne occasionally needs the lift of a solid groove.
But Lynne is a sneakily proficient rhythm guitarist. She manufactured a percussive bossa-nova rhythm on “Lead Me Love.” On the spirited bluegrass-gospel hybrid “10 Rocks,” the audience was itching to break out of its dinner-theater seats.
Mostly, though, you were transfixed by Lynne’s voice, the way it can lilt and linger. Beneath its beauty, as her fans well know, lies a family history that’s almost incomprehensibly sad. Music, it’s clear, is Lynne’s salve — the thing with which she fills up the “empty room,” the “lonely room” (“I Want to Go Back”).
“It’s a miracle that you survived/when you put your soul out there like a lion,” she sang, in an angelic Sam Cooke-like melody, on “Even Angels.” Count bravery among the qualities of Shelby Lynne’s newfound independence.