NEW YORK (Reuters) - For years singer Shelby Lynne had heard the comparisons with Dusty Springfield.
Although flattered to be mentioned in the same breath as the late British singer, Lynne never thought of covering any of her songs, especially those from the iconic "Dusty in Memphis" album, which was released in 1969, when she was just one year old.
But her friend singer Barry Manilow suggested it might be a good move in a career that has sputtered since she won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2001.
"He's a smart guy, and probably he had read all these ... comparisons, which I don't believe in, nor do I like," Lynne said in an interview.
"He thought maybe I could do them (the songs) justice, and I never really thought about ever doing a cover record, period," she added, sipping red wine in a Manhattan hotel bar.
But Lynne was ready to do another album and thought people needed to be reminded about how great a singer Springfield was.
The result is Lynne's new album, "Just A Little Lovin"' (Lost Highway Records), which includes interpretations of nine Springfield songs, including three from "Dusty in Memphis."
Other songs on the album are the Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil-penned title track and a couple of Burt Bacharach/Hal David classics, "The Look of Love" and "Anyone Who Had a Heart," plus Dusty hits "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" and "I Only Want To Be With You."
Produced by Phil Ramone, Lynne's versions bear little resemblance to the originals. They're stripped-down, minimalist arrangements. The vocals waft over the spare piano and guitar sounds like hickory smoke from a barbecue in her native Alabama.
"I chose songs I could make mine, while still giving respect where it's due to Dusty and the song. I would never, ever, ever attempt to cut 'Son of a Preacher Man.' She owns that," Lynne said of one of Springfield's biggest hits.
She believes some songs belong to certain singers and would never record a song by her idol, Elvis Presley.
Springfield died of breast cancer at the age of 59 in 1999 on the day she should have collected her OBE (Order of the British Empire) award from Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace.
Born Mary O'Brien in London, Springfield became one of the top female singers of the 1960s after first appearing with her brother Tom as the folk-oriented Springfields.
She sang pop, R&B and soul, traditional folk and country. She was also credited by Motown records founder Berry Gordy with helping to popularize the Motown sound in Britain.
Like Springfield, Lynne is a little bit country and a little bit not.
Despite winning a Grammy seven years ago for the album "I Am Shelby Lynne," the 39-year-old singer is still looking for wider popular appeal.
Heading to Nashville after the tragedy of her parents' murder-suicide when she was 18, she had a few country hits early in her career and was named Top New Female Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music in 1991.
But like Springfield, Lynne is difficult to define, and for her the song is the most important thing.
"Dusty didn't care where a song came from or who had done it, just as long as she could take a huge chunk out of it as a singer," she said.
"You know, when you just get down to singin' that's how I chose my favorite songs. Which one can I take a chunk out of and make mine?"