Shawn Colvin settles in for three nights at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in Minneapolis this coming Thursday. Shawn is touring in support of her second all-cover recording, Uncovered. I’m attending in support of my anger management therapy; I bought tickets for all three nights. Here I want to draw on my previous comments about her.
Shawn is a brilliant singer/songwriter/interpreter who achieved stardom with the Grammy-winning pop hit “Sunny Came Home” on A Few Small Repairs in 1997. I don’t think anything eclipses her first three recordings beginning with the Grammy-winning Steady On in 1989, followed by Fat City (1992) and Cover Girl (1994), each one of which is full of four-alarm songs.
In her memoir Colvin documents how she has overcome alcoholism, anorexia, depression, and misadventures with unworthy men (my description, not hers) in the course of an accomplished career. You can hear a lot of her struggles in the music in addition to her unconflicted love of the Beatles, with which she opens the book. Her music is confessional in the traditional singer/songwriter mode, but I think her lyricism, her bite, and her travails also hark back to the poets Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath.
She is a compelling live performer and interpreter. On Cover Girl she first collected a full set of songs written by others. By my lights, it is full of knockouts. One such is Jimmy Webb’s “If These Walls Could Speak.” You can’t help but feel the personal connection she finds in Webb’s lyrics:
They would tell you that I’m sorry
For being cold and blind and weak,
They would tell you that it’s only
That I have a stubborn streak
If these old walls could speak.
YouTube is full of good videos showing Colvin in performance on television and in concert. I don’t think any clip captures her artistry better than what appears to be the amateur video below of Colvin performing Webb’s song as an encore before an appreciative audience at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano in December 2011. Her eyes well up with tears as she sings that touching chorus.
On Uncovered, Shawn concludes with Tammy Wynette’s classic country weeper “‘Til I Get It Right” (written by Larry Henley and Red Lane). The video below presents the version on her new recording. I think it’s fair to say it’s a highlight.