On the twentieth anniversary of Americana singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin’s Grammy Winning album, A Few Small Repairs Sony Legacy have released an extended version. It comes at the same time fellow act, Lucinda Williams recognises the 25th anniversary of her album Sweet Old World. In her case not only has she re-recorded the album, but also included four songs that failed the cut first time round, and release the album under the guise of This Sweet Old World.
Colvin’s album came after her career changing, Grammy Contemporary Folk Album Winner Steady On (1989) and the one that arguably turned a great many onto her music was Fat City (1992), me included. Followed by what at the time was a big surprise, an album of covers Cover Girl (1994), and then we had A Few Small Repairs.
On A Few Small Repairs Colvin, as always offers a great deal of honesty as she speaks of her own trails and tribulations (her personal life gave her a great deal of material) and one or two shrewd observations. With her friend John Leventhal once again the producer, (he did Steady On) the scene was set for the gutsy lady to share some of her first hand experiences. Colvin and Leventhal to date have worked as collaborators some 35 years, this alone underlines just how close they are musically.
Shawn Colvin’s depth of feeling, her ability to extract all the nuances and lay her emotions out for people to see them; touch her soul without it all becoming too heavy is a rare ability. She rarely overburdens the listener with her troubles as she supports her tales with clever, often hooky melodies. That lend the listener to loosen their shoulders, and on occasions tap out the tune either with fingers or, and foot as the plucky, never say-die singer-songwriter reveals all. It is worth noting the players on the record; for apart from Leventhal, who is a priceless guitarist (bass, acoustic guitar, pedal steel, organ, keyboards, percussion and string arrangement on “If I Were Brave”), Shawn Pelton; drums, percussion, Michael Rhodes (bass) to go with Colvin’s acoustic guitar, and on “If I Were Brave” some beautiful sensitive piano! Colvin is found in wistful fashion, and leaning almost towards stage music (it would make a wonderful backdrop for a play).
Ever changing, evolving and pressing onwards Colvin in the space of three songs running concurrent you have “I Want It Back” and the reflective on when times were good in the relationship “If I Were Brave” and “Wichita Skyline” as she feels disconnected from her emotions. At the time of the original record she was after all going through her divorce, on taking this into consideration the record easily have been dark. But Colvin in her new liner notes writes; “A Few Small Repairs captures everything I’ve ever wanted to do and be as an artist and a songwriter. And, maybe most of all, it was just plain fun.”
Apart from the 12-track original, Colvin has added not only six live recordings of songs “Sunny Came Home”, “Trouble, Get Out Of This House”, “The Facts About Jimmy”, “You And The Mona Lisa” and “If I Were Brave” plus “Ricochet In Time” that was originally released on the CD single “Sunny Came Home” (and recorded at the Grand Ole Opry). Other bonus factors include new liner notes from both Colvin and Leventhal, and rare photos too.
While the album in the main flows, well enough a couple of songs tend to drag but this is but a minor critique. For the listener is handed a surfeit of wonderful cuts in “Sunny Come Home” and the more dramatic, pleading even “I Want It Back” and arm flailing “Get Out Of This House” and with tempered restraint, “Wichita Skyline”. Before the sombre “84,000 Different Delusions” and a less than thrilling “Suicide Alley” before the ship is righted on the final track, jaunty ode “Nothing On Me”.
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