SHAWN COLVIN – Uncovered (Fantasy 0888072374157)

SHAWN COLVIN UncoveredAt some point in time, many an artist has released a collection of covers, usually songs celebrating their influences and inspirations, often, also conjuring a simple campfire or living room singalong with friends. This is Colvin’s second, following on from 1994’s Cover Girl, and, again a tip of the hat to the days playing the clubs and bars singing others’ songs before she found success with her own material, although, there’s nothing here that would have been in her repertoire of the time.

Co-produced by Eagles guitarist Steuart Smith, who did the previous album, and Stewart Lerman, it’s a simple acoustic affair with a couple of special guests joining her on vocals for two numbers. First up is one of my all-time favourite Springsteen songs, ‘Tougher Than The Rest’, Colvin retaining the gender of the narrator, but exposing even more the vulnerability behind the macho pose of the lyrics. Indeed. The early running plays the familiarity card, following on with a beautifully world-weary, almost confessional tone reading of Paul Simon’s ‘American Tune’ before being joined by a muted David Crosby on the chorus for Gerry Rafferty’s signature tune, ‘Baker Street’. Now, this may be sacrilege in some quarters, but I was never a big fan of the original; however, here, stripped down to the bone with Glenn Fukunaga’s upright bass and guitar tapped hand percussion, and devoid of the sax flourish (replaced by lap steel), it takes on a late night bluesy resignation that flags up the sense of dislocation and alienation.

The second guest appearance comes from Marc Cohn who joins her to provide harmonies on a smoulderingly intimate, country soul arrangement of Brenton Wood’s ‘Gimme Little Sign’, again underpinned by laid back hand percussion.

The other choices are probably not so well known to the mainstream even if the writers are. Graham Nash provides another CS&N connection with a pedal steel streaked, resonant acoustic guitar arrangement ofI Used To Be A King’ which follows directly on from a gorgeous , emotionally wrought version of the Brennan/Waits love ballad ‘Hold On’, the chorus having an almost hymnal quality, Colvin delivering some of the lines in an almost chokingly spoken tone.

Crowded House’s Neil Finn a rhythmically choppy provides ‘Private Universe’ before a surprising interpretation of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Heaven Is Ten Zillion Light Years Away’ off Fulfillingness’ First Finale, transforming it from a gospel soul groove into a slow, late night acoustic blues that reminds me greatly of Clive Gregson’s ‘Touch And Go’.

Again, while critically acclaimed, written by Robbie Robertson and originally on Northern Lights – Southern Cross, ‘Arcadian Driftwood’, a song about the expulsion of the Arcadians during the war between the French and the English over present day Nova Scotia is probably one of the lesser known Band numbers, and Colvin’s six and a half minute version brings the haunting lyrics about dispossession into full relief.

Originally the B side of Creedence Clearwater revival classic ‘Bad Moon Rising’, John Fogarty’s ‘Lodi’ has seen many a cover, from Emmylou to Tom Jones, and, featuring both jangling acoustic and plangent electric guitars, it’s the most full bodied , country-rock track here and another strong notch to the song’s CV.

Texan-born Robert Earl Keen is something of a cult figure in folk-country circles, but, regarded as one of the great contemporary dust bowl songs, ‘Not A Drop Of Rain’, the collection’s penultimate track, is certainly one of his best known numbers and Colvin picks out a fine version here. The album closes on a classic country ballad note, looking back to 1973 and the dreamy-sounding ‘Til I Get It Right’, a country chart topper for Tammy Wynette that hews close to the original, but with pedal steel rather than strings and a slightly more torch quality.

As this month’s Ryan Adams release of his rework of Taylor Swift’s 1989 amply illustrates, cover version albums have a mixed history, but Colvin’s most definitely weights the balance in their favour.

Mike Davies

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Jerry Douglas TravelerWhen you’ve got a little black book loaded with contacts you use them don’t you? And in the case of dobro maestro Jerry Douglas that’s quite some book. Paul Simon, Alison Krauss, Eric Clapton etc they’re all in there and only too pleased to lend a hand on this, his thirteenth solo album. I first became aware of Jerry’s playing in 1987 on Davy Spillane’s “Atlantic Bridge” album and was stunned by the musicality and expression on what I thought at the time was a pretty anodyne instrument. Of course, since then I’ve become an avid fan and Mr Douglas’s collaborations are without doubt some of the most stimulating Continue reading JERRY DOUGLAS – Traveler


A short while ago, I was added to the bands facebook group and over the past weeks I’ve seen excitement building for both the new album release and the forthcoming tour. I recently got my hands on Supernova and instantly, it got under my skin. You know the type of thing,  one that has you going back to it time and time again for another fix. With its emotional pull, clear as a bell lyrical harmonies and clever instrumental arrangements, it will take you at least a couple of years in rehab, to get it out of your system. Darren Beech

The album was mixed by Grammy Award winner Ben Wisch (Marc Cohn) and featuring guest appearances by the Indigo Girls’ Emily Saliers and others, Supernova is Girlyman’s fifth studio release and the first to include the kinetic percussion of newest member and former Po’ Girl drummer JJ Jones. Lush, Beatles-esque arrangements, the group’s signature three-part harmonies, and songs that “capture, in a story or a surprising metaphor, a feeling you’ve had but never heard so well- expressed” (Slate Magazine) all come together to create Girlyman’s most masterful work to date. “It’s the music of my heart and soul,” says comedian Margaret Cho. “Girlyman is the past and the present and the future.”

“Heartbreakingly beautiful three-part harmonies…theirs is a sound you could happily drown in…miss them at your peril!” ***** Maverick

Ironically, the past year was one of the most challenging in the Atlanta-based quartet’s history. “A supernova is a dying star,” explains Girlyman member Doris Muramatsu, who was diagnosed with leukaemia in late 2010. The three founding members of Girlyman (Muramatsu, Nate Borofsky, and Tylan Greenstein) had spent ten years playing and singing harmony together, from early days in tiny coffeehouses, through long opening runs with the Indigo Girls and Dar Williams, all the way to festival main stages and the country’s premier folk venues. Now the band suddenly feared for its future. “I was in the hospital getting blood transfusions and chemotherapy. We cancelled a month of tours and thought that was it. We didn’t know if we’d ever tour again.”

“Soaring harmonies, social consciousness, and impressive musical prowess…Girlyman’s bittersweet approach to the human condition will strike a chord regardless of the listener.” San Francisco Chronicle

“Tired of discordant progressive and oh-so-experimental indie rock? Girlyman makes folk-pop music that is defined by stunning three part harmonies and beautiful melodies. This music makes you want to sit back, close your eyes and listen.” The Washington Post

“a festival of Simon & Garfunkel-styled harmony that strokes and soothes. Irresistible.” R2 Magazine

Supernova is an autobiography of this unique time for the folk-rock quartet, and its thirteen songs resonate with themes of uncertainty and transformation. But the album is not a dirge; instead, the band reaches, as always, for hope. “A supernova may be a dying star,” continues Doris. “But as it turns out, it also gives birth to new stars.” Indeed, nine months later, Muramatsu’s cancer went into remission and the band was reborn.

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