Shawn Colvin
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Shawn Colvin Biography

The first song Shawn Colvin completed for These Four Walls, her Nonesuch debut, was the wistful "Summer Dress," which opens with Colvin singing over the austere strum of a lone acoustic guitar, then builds into a lilting folk-rock arrangement. Colvin maintains a delicate balance between confidence and vulnerability as she describes a dream-like venture out to "face a wilderness." Like much of this deeply felt album, "Summer Dress" is about looking ahead, moving on, performed from the vantage point of someone who's had a chance to glance back somewhat ruefully at where she's been. These Four Walls is very much an album of shared experiences, common epiphanies. Colvin is one of those rare performers, like Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, or her youthful idol Joni Mitchell, who has been able to grow up alongside her audience and mature into her role as singer and songwriter. Although she was rewarded with a Best Contemporary Folk Grammy for her 1989 debut disc, Steady On, Colvin didn't reach a broad mainstream audience until eight years later, when her story of a housewife's fiery revenge, "Sunny Came Home," became an unlikely top ten pop single fifteen months after the album it was taken from, A Few Small Repairs, was released. "I'm lucky," Colvin admits, "in that I built my career really slowly, started small, very intimately. I just toured a lot; the whole grassroots thing. I didn't have a hit until I was well into my recording career." As a storyteller, Colvin remains both clear-eyed and warm-hearted, leavening even her toughest tales with a little tenderness and a lot of empathy. Similarly, her musical arrangements are both succinct and seductive, understated enough to allow Colvin's lyrics to sink in. Colvin and her longtime studio cohort; producer, multi-instrumentalist, and co-writer John Leventhal; aren't afraid of pop hooks, either, but the ones they've fashioned here never sound contrived. A sing-along chorus or plaintive refrain come up as naturally as a bend in the road; they're just part of the journey. "I'm very proud of this record," Colvin decides. "You put your head down and do the work and, when all is said and done, you see what you've come up with. I remember when I finally had a CD with twelve of these tracks, when I could just listen to them all together, and I realized, this is better than I thought it could be. I've been doing this a long time and it's great to feel like I'm doing my best work now." -- Michael Hill

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