These Four Walls
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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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
"Summer Dress" could be a veiled recounting of the picaresque route Colvin herself took to hard-earned solo stardom, from her South Dakota birthplace to the Southern Illinois college town where she was raised, to the bars and clubs of Boston and New York City, where she first attracted a following.
Then again, it might be an artfully composed fiction about escaping a small town or running after love, a postcard from a youthful time when freedom seemed like a mere bus ticket or car ride away.
Whatever its origins, the emotional and musical pull of "Summer Dress" along with the rest of "These Four Walls" is powerful.
Somehow we've all been there, too.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"These Four Walls" is no exception. Eleven new songs and two covers, there isn't a wasted note or overplayed stanza on the entire CD. Songs of lover's resignation (the beautiful title song) and bitter rants like "Tuff Kid" are interlaced with love songs like "Let It Slide" and her cover of the Bee Gees' "Words." Producer and co-writer John Leventhal does for Colvin what he has done over numerous times through the years: frames Colvin letter perfectly. It is the same kind of empathic touch he gave to Rosanne Cash on "Black Cadillac."
The show, however, belongs to Colvin. Her delivery of these songs is unflinchingly honest, and had this been the time of hits for the likes of her, Natalie Merchant and Suzanne Vega in the late 80's, the audience for this would be clamoring for "Summer Dress" and "Venetian Blue" on the radio or even VH1. But alas, Shawn Colvin's "These Four Walls" will suffer the commercial fate of more discriminatory buyers, like the folks who are probably reading this review. So what are you waiting for?
One of the best of 2006.
With this album Colvin has risen to the occasion. It has seeped into the corners of my soul and moved me. It reflects a level of craftsmanship that is rare. Her lyrics are smart, self aware, and honest in a way that is all her own while being reminiscent of Joni Mitchell at her best. This is a must have especially for songs such as "These Four Walls", "Venetian Blue", I'm Gone", "Summer Dress", "So Good to See You", and "The Bird." It inspires me that Colvin has done justice to her talent and that we all get to enjoy the result.
Shawn's music just feels right to me. She has a folk rock style with a little edge. If you have Born in the USA stuck back in your collection somewhere pull it out and listen to My Hometown. Shawn's songs are like that. They are about life and the truth. She tells it like it is,(Let it slide, Tuff kid). The whole album takes me back to some of the good artists of the 70's. She does a good cover of the Bee Gees Words. Other songs remind me of artists like Carole King, James Taylor, and even Bob Seeger. If you like folk and want to sit back, have a beer, and listen to what a great artist has to say you wont be disappointed. If you like Brittney or Shania and want your music sugar coated keep looking...