Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wednesday and Thursday: Shawn Colvin at City Winery

Posted By on 11.07.12 at 08:00 AM

Shawn Colvin
  • Shawn Colvin
I've never cared for Shawn Colvin's music, though I've tried to several times. There's always been something too slick and middle-of-the-road about it. I put much of the blame on her regular producer, John Leventhal, who also cowrites lots of songs with her; he's made a career for himself applying a bland gloss to all kinds of artists, including Rosanne Cash (his wife), John Gorka, Patty Larkin, Marc Cohen, and Kim Richey, none of whom is particularly edgy to begin with. Still, I gave Colvin's latest album, All Fall Down (Nonesuch), a shot, and I quickly noticed something different.

That's because the album was produced by guitarist Buddy Miller, one of Nashville's best players, songwriters, and musical minds. He favors an old-school analog sound, and for many of his productions he captures a band playing live together. That was the case for Colvin's album, which features a killer lineup: guitarists Miller and Bill Frisell, drummer Brian Blade, bassist Viktor Krauss, and guests including Emmylou Harris (whose music seems to serve as a paradigm here), Alison Krauss, and Stuart Duncan. Broadly speaking, Colvin is still making the same folk pop she always has, but under the supervision of Miller it sounds grittier and more vital—a better complement to the sharpness of lyrics, which can be wonderfully biting at their best.

On "Knowing What I Know," written with Leventhal, Colvin turns the notion that experience brings wisdom on its head by warning a romantic partner to steer clear of her, despite her own desire to the contrary: "Would I ask a seeing man to go blind / Would I ask a sane man to lose his mind / I wouldn't ask you to play that part / Knowing what I know now." On the acidic "Anne of the Thousand Days" she lays into a cruel serial monogamist, the kind of guy who starts setting up his next relationship once he's secured his current one: "There was the one / From Colorado / She thanked you for / The kissing and dancing / But you hate to dance / Off with her head."

Colvin plays solo shows at City Winery on Wednesday and Thursday night. Below you can check out the video for the new album's title track.

Photo: Michael Wilson

Today's playlist:

Ståhls Blå, Ståhls Blå (Dragon)
Ernst Karel, Swiss Mountain Transport Systems (Gruenrekorder)
Gato Barbieri, In Search of Mystery (ESP-Disk)
Erik M & Norbert Moslang, Stodgy (Mikroton)
Mark McGuire, Living With Yourself (Editions Mego)

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