It's hard to resist comparing Shawn Colvin's These Four Walls to Darden Smith's brilliant Field of Crows. Both albums are filled with Texas attitude but recorded in the unlikely confines of New York City. They are similar in vision and poetic clarity, piercing the same deep emotional ground. And both are by Austin-based artists who've moved way beyond the regional Texas music phenomenon onto a world stage, a world market.
But when you come across wonderfully oblique lines like "I know where you live / and I know who you are / so don't get too close / and don't go too far," comparisons become pointless. Colvin is certainly a singular talent, and her collaboration with producer John Leventhal (Roseanne Cash, Kelly Willis) has once again yielded a sassy, pleasing, thoughtful pop record that gets a perfect score in the integrity department.
Only a handful of women in popular music can write and deliver songs like "Summer Dress," whose title belies the grit in four verses of searing clarity. "Venetian Blue" is the ultimate hit-replay depressing torch song, and it doesn't get much better lyrically than Colvin's declaration on "The Bird": "What I like about time is it don't ask why / what I like about love is it makes me cry / what I like about the bird is it don't need / nothin' but sky." A driving acoustic version of Paul Westerberg's "Even Here We Are" and a stunning one-take acoustic rendition of the Bee Gees' "Words" meld easily with Colvin's originals. Sailing through the stratosphere with the likes of Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin flat out declares her brilliance with this one, vocally and lyrically.
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