Shawn Colvin Polaroids: A Greatest Hits Collection Review

Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Colvin has been labelled as one of the 'children of Joni', and freely admits to a...

Jon Lusk 2004

In the US, she's thought of as part of the 'New Folk' movement which emerged in the late 80s. But in the UK, that 'folk' tag usually means something much more rootsy. Suffice it to say that Shawn Colvin is a slightly left-of-centre soft rock singer/songwriter with an occasional penchant for country.

This collection draws on the five albums she has released since debuting in 1989 with Steady On. She got her first real break singing backing vocals on Suzanne Vega's hit "Luka", and there are clear shades of Vega on "Diamond In The Rough" from that first album. Colvin has been labelled as one of the 'children of Joni', and freely admits to a fondness for Joni Mitchell's music during her formative years.

The influence is nowhere more evident than on the driving "Round Of Blues", from her second album Fat City. After several spins, this song stands head and shoulders above the rest of the original material, mostly co-written with songwriting partner John Leventhal, who also produced the bulk of the tracks (and is currently married to Rosanne Cash, another obvious source of inspiration).

On the more introspective numbers such as "Polaroids", Colvin is more reminiscent of Janis Ian, and even recalls Rickie Lee Jones in parts of her imaginative cover of David Byrne's "This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)". While she brings out an unexpected pathos here, her take on "Every Little Thing (He) Does Is Magic" (the other selection from Cover Girl, her 1994 collection of other people's songs) rather exposes her shortcomings as a singer, as do several of her quieter numbers.

Colvin has quite a thin, girlish voice without a great deal of character, which explains the need to compare her to others. So, after another 68 minutes of tastefully arranged, perfectly played and often pleasant, but ultimately pretty unremarkable AOR, I can't really call myself a fan.

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