Personal problems notwithstanding, Colvin had something to prove with A Few Small Repairs. Her previous release, Cover Girl, in which she lived up to the title by covering songs of other performers and writers, had most critics and many fans perplexed. Some wondered why, after two strong original outings, Colvin would bother with a move so often associated with a late-career holding pattern. Had her well gone dry so soon? Others assumed the idea was cooked up by her label in an attempt to generate a hit. Either way, the whole thing felt contrived.
In her own defense, Colvin claims that neither writer's block nor pressure from the powers-that-be had anything to do with her decision to go the cover route, and that, in reality, the origins of Cover Girl were quite innocent.
"When I got signed to the label, I wasn't a writer, really. I'd spent I don't how many hours playing in clubs to people who weren't really listening, and some of the covers I did were pretty interesting. I felt really attached to them. I just felt like I needed to do it," Colvin says. "After slaving over those first two albums, it sounded like a good idea, and the record company supported it. They even tried to shield me from what people actually thought of it."
Really now. Colvin hardly seems like the sort who'd need shielding from anything. Still, even as A Few Small Repairs sees her coming into her own both as an artist and a woman of boundless experience, Colvin is worried. For a brief moment, she even lets down her guard, and her pinched expression from when she was on the Cynthia Woods Mitchell stage suddenly returns.
"I just hope people haven't forgotten about me," she says. "I just hope it's not too late."
Shawn Colvin performs Friday, April 25, at the Bud World Party on the Houston International Festival's City Hall Stage. Also performing are Kacy Crowley, Trish Murphy and Charlie and Will Sexton. Show begins at 5 p.m. Tickets are $10, which includes Saturday or Sunday admission to the International Festival. For info, call (800) 541-2099.