It is a very popular statement for disgruntled music fans to say “Nashville has lost its soul.” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone say or post this, I would be one rich lady. Well, I’m calling bullsh#t. Nashville has not lost its soul. The soul of Nashville burns through every inch of this town and oozes out from studios from Gallatin to Murfreesboro to White Bluff and everywhere in between. Maybe radio has lost its soul. But, the heart of Nashville hasn’t. And, if you can’t find it, you aren’t looking hard enough. Enter Shelly Fairchild.
Shelly ventured to Nashville from Clinton, MS in 2001, wide-eyed and oozing with talent. She scooped up a record deal with Columbia Records just four years later with Columbia Records, releasing her debut album Ride in early 2005. On the record, the single “You Don’t Lie Here Anymore” reached #35 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks (now Hot Country Songs) charts and was her only chart single. The timing for stardom may have been a little off for Fairchild as her record was released on the heels of Gretchen Wilson’s blockbuster release, Redneck Woman. The fight for air time for female artists on country radio was, and still is, a constant struggle. Fairchild pushed forward, touring with Rascal Flatts and Blake Shelton and even appearing on David Letterman. In the years following “Ride,” she left Columbia and had a brief stint with Stroudarious Records. She then released an independent album entitled, Ruby’s Money, which was a stark departure from her previous country music releases and unveiled a very soulful artist whose original music was inspired by many genres of music.
Fueled by a newfound independence and ability to write and record whatever moved her, Shelly launched a massive Pledge Music campaign and successfully raised enough funds to record her latest full length album, Buffalo, which was released to all major digital distributors on November 18, 2016. On her website, Shelly says, “I’ve loved each record that I’ve ever made, but Buffalo is particularly close to my heart. It’s the first record of mine that I’ve co-produced, and it is the first record that I’ve ever done that was funded solely by my fans and friends which is truly why I have named the record Buffalo. It symbolizes abundance, strength, survival, power, and above all- gratitude. I know this album is truly a reflection of everyone I’ve known and everything I’ve done up to this point in my life. And I’m so very grateful for all of it and everyone who helped me make this record.”
If this album is a reflection of Shelly’s life, then it is one hell of a life well-lived through the hard times and the exhilarating times alike. Produced by Fairchild, Jeremy Lister and Carey Ott, Buffalo is a musical masterpiece utilizing the talents of some of Nashville’s finest musicians (including Ott on guitars, and Lister assisting with background vocals and keys.) From the first track, a re-cut of her sizzling tune, “Muddy Water” first released on Ride, to the last track, a moving ballad called “Goodbye to the Rest,” the listener is taken on a journey of the trials, tribulations and empowerment Fairchild has surely found in her 15 year Nashville rollercoaster ride. Other standout tracks are “House on Fire” co-written with Nashville all-stars, Lisa Carver and Travis Meadows, the retro rocker, “Damn Good Lover,” and the blues-driven upbeat “Mississippi Turnpike.”
In each track, you hear influences from across every musical genre- a little Bonnie Raitt, Susan Tedeshi, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, and the tenderness of Patty Griffin. At least that’s what I hear. Ask another fan and I bet you’ll get a whole list of other great artists that come to mind. But,that’s what makes it so easy to love Shelly Fairchild. Her familiarity reminds you of everything you love about music while, at the same time, she offers up her own distinctive sound that leaves you wanting more. Do yourself a favor and go straight to iTunes to buy “Buffalo.” If Nashville lost its soul, rest assured it has been found.
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I had the pleasure of visiting Shelly in the studio during the recording of Buffalo. Here are a few behind the scenes shots: