This is Shawn Colvin's first album since 2001's A Whole New You. On These Four Walls, Colvin displays an easy-going sophistication and an appealingly grown-up spin on both her own evocative songs and the smartly-chosen covers she interprets.
Shawn Colvin's fans are a dedicated and patient lot. They've had to be, to have waited five years for this new release and nearly six for the one before it. But she rewards the faithful with gems every time, and These Four Walls is no exception. Despite a label change to the more musically adventurous Nonesuch, after having been associated with Columbia since 1989, this is a typically low-key yet beautifully constructed set. Colvin again works with producer/songwriter John Leventhal, her musical collaborator for the past quarter-century, and that long-standing partnership pays off with 11 superbly crafted originals. Colvin's breathy voice conveys the emotion, yearning, sadness, and even the occasional joy and hope behind the melodies. As producer, Leventhal colors these songs with subtle textures, adding organ, brushed drums, and layered electric and acoustic guitars to bolster but never overwhelm the songs or Colvin's delicate yet defined vocals. It's a clean but never-slick sound, with enough edge and dynamics to reflect the nuances in the lyrics. Covers of the obscure Paul Westerberg track "Even Here We Are" and the Bee Gees' "Words"--the latter sounding like a demo, with just acoustic guitar, spare bass, and sparse piano--illuminate additional details in her approach. They round out one of Colvin's finest, most honest, and poignant collections. It's an album worth the extended wait. --Hal Horowitz
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