182

Shawn Colvin: These Four Walls

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Shawn Colvin: These Four Walls For her first Nonesuch release, singer/songwriter Shawn Colvin and longtime producer/co-writer John Leventhal strip things back to the basics. The same approach made her 1989 Columbia debut Steady On a refreshing breath of fresh air at a time when kitchen sink production was de rigueur. Both have matured as artists in the ensuing years, and These Four Walls is a more polished affair, but it's still ultimately about the songs—and presenting them as honestly as possible, with a minimum of artifice or fuss.

Of course the fact that the majority of the sounds on These Four Walls come from Leventhal's multi-instrumental layers—aside from Colvin's propulsive acoustic guitar and whispery voice, Shawn Pelton's drums, and a handful of guest appearances—reflects the great deal of consideration that went into making it. It just doesn't feel that way.

Leventhal gained as much critical exposure from Steady On as Colvin did, going on to work with artists like Willie Nelson, Rosanne Cash and Tom Rush. Unlike Larry Klein, who produced the majority of Colvin's Fat City (Columbia, 1992)—and in doing so managed to take something of a cookie-cutter approach and make an overproduced mess of some undeniably strong material—Leventhal has the uncanny and wonderful knack of being able to weave a rich sonic tapestry that actually breathes.

In a time when shows like American Idol teach aspiring singers that the secrets to success are melodrama and pyrotechnics, it's especially satisfying to hear a singer like Colvin, who relies on purity of tone, nuance and subtle phrasing to deliver her message. She still covers a lot of territory, from the rockier stance of "Tuff Kid" and "The Bird" to the bluesy roots of "I'm Gone" and the anthemic "Let It Slide." She's also able to hear past a song's treatment, morphing Paul Westerberg's "Even Here We Are" and the Bee Gees' classic "Words" into spare folk tunes that are more moving than their sources.

Lyrically, Colvin's not as poetic as Joni Mitchell, as wry as Lyle Lovett or as biting as Randy Newman. She's more direct with the pen, yet she manages to imbue an autobiographic honesty without pandering to any kind of lowest common denominator. Live '88 (Plump, 1995) made it clear that she has nothing to prove when it comes to self-accompaniment, but it's all the more significant that her strong rhythmic playing, despite being surrounded by Leventhal's orchestration, remains at the core of every song.

These Four Walls is only Colvin's fifth release in nearly two decades to focus on original material. As long as half a decade may pass between them, but Colvin's own pieces—with and without Leventhal—always have enough resonance to keep fans satisfied during intervening years. These Four Walls represents another in a string of winners.


Track Listing: Fill Me Up; These Four Walls; Tuff Kid; Summer Dress; Cinnamon; Venetian Blue; The Bird; I'm Gone; Let It Slide; Even Here We Are; So Good to See You; That Don't Worry Me Now; Words.

Personnel: Shawn Colvin: acoustic guitar, vocals; John Leventhal: guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion, mandolin, dobro, pedal steel; Shawn Pelton: drums, percussion; Rick DePofi: percussion and horns (11); Patty Griffith: vocals (5); Marc Cohn: vocals (5); Teddy Thompson: vocals (9); Antoine Silverman: violin (3); Greg Liesz: pedal steel (2).

Title: These Four Walls | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Nonesuch Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Eleven Cages CD/LP/Track Review Eleven Cages
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Afro-Caribbean Mixtape CD/LP/Track Review Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
by Mark F. Turner
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Wake Up Call CD/LP/Track Review Wake Up Call
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 27, 2017
Read The Late Trane CD/LP/Track Review The Late Trane
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Developing Story CD/LP/Track Review Developing Story
by Edward Blanco
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall) CD/LP/Track Review Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall)
by Phil Barnes
Published: June 26, 2017
Read "Evergreen (Canceled World)" CD/LP/Track Review Evergreen (Canceled World)
by Dave Wayne
Published: January 4, 2017
Read "So Beautiful, It Starts To Rain" CD/LP/Track Review So Beautiful, It Starts To Rain
by John Sharpe
Published: December 11, 2016
Read "Moons" CD/LP/Track Review Moons
by Dave Wayne
Published: July 27, 2016
Read "Cantos Invisíveis" CD/LP/Track Review Cantos Invisíveis
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 13, 2017
Read "Reliquia" CD/LP/Track Review Reliquia
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 30, 2016
Read "Araminta" CD/LP/Track Review Araminta
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 17, 2017

Smart Advertising!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.