Dusty Springfield was an effortlessly intimate singer. She could present herself as vulnerable—broken, even—and drenched in sexuality at the same time. There weren’t any tricks; she had a strong, rich voice and a striking command of the ambiguities of the material she tackled, especially on her milestone 1969 record Dusty in Memphis. She had an almost frighteningly clear-eyed awareness of the space that separates people but never stooped to cynicism or resignation.
Shelby Lynne, on the other hand, has a perfectly fine voice, but its one-note sex-pot huskiness pales next to Springfield’s. Her approach on Just a Little Lovin’, a collection of nine songs from Dusty in Memphis and the new track “Pretend,” is to pause and catch her voice in lackluster imitation of Springfield. On her original version of “Breakfast in Bed,” for instance—“Breakfast in bed and a kiss or three/You don’t have to say you love me”—Springfield is heart-wrenchingly aware of her own need and her partner’s; the consequences of restraint seem worse than the inevitable results of cheating. It’s as grown-up and complex a take on desire as pop music has ever delivered. On the same song, Lynne sounds like she’s just giving in.
Multiple Grammy-winner Phil Ramone’s production doesn’t help. He mistakes slow for sultry and lounge for lush. Dusty in Memphis deserves tribute, but the best way to do that is to buy it and listen.