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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Shawn Colvin - These Four Walls
Release Date: September 12, 2006
Label: Nonesuch

Grammy-winner Shawn Colvin is best known for her late nineties hit Sunny Came Home, the kind of song that is all but dead on modern mainstream radio: the product of an artist rather than a crack team of songwriters, completely stripped down yet transformed into a hit despite itself. Much of Colvin’s new album follows suit. It has a distinguished intimacy and, although unlikely to produce any hits on the scale of Sunny, it’s a pleasant listen.

Therein lies both the album’s strength and its weakness. Colvin’s voice and songwriting are in fine form and she chooses a pair of covers wisely (especially the Bee Gees' Words, which closes the album). These Four Walls also opens with a winning trifecta of songs, highlighted most notably by Tuff Kid, a nostalgic sing-along that, more than anything else on the album, allows Colvin to show some personality and versatility in sound. The rest of Walls, especially the latter portion, doesn’t stray too far from the kind of light folk-pop that artists like Jewel and Paula Cole rode to success during their Lilith Fair years. It’s all very pretty and makes fine background music for an evening in, but it’s not as surprising or lyrically probing as Colvin has been in the past.

Still, that doesn’t mean that These Four Walls is a bad album. In fact, in some ways the best aspect of the record is that it doesn’t push to be something new and different. It feels very personal, a record that Colvin made for herself and her fans before even contemplating radio play and music videos. This alone will make it stand out, even if the music isn’t always as engaging as it could be. B-

Key Tracks: Tuff Kid, Fill Me Up, These Four Walls


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