Shawn Colvin: Her “Folk n ‘Roll” Universe

Shawn Colvin

Born in Vermillion, South Dakota, Shawn Colvin is an A-list artist. Discovering the guitar at the age of 10, she performed for the first time on stage five years later on the campus of the University of Illinois. Her influences are deeply rooted in country music. The musical identity of the young performer gradually formed when she was touring in Texas where she played in a Western swing band. Eventually, she moved to New York where she met someone who would prove to be very important for her future career, producer John Leventhal.

Signed to Columbia Records for Steady On, her first album was released in 1989 and was a great success, winning a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1991. Later, Fat City was released in 1992, then an album of covers in 1994 called Cover Girl, and later a live album in 1995, called Live ’88.

But it was in 1996 when her true musical identity was displayed in the release of A Few Small Repairs. Most notably, her hit single “Sunny Came Home” stayed on the charts in the top 10 for several weeks. In 1998, the guitarist and singer won two Grammy Awards: one for Song of the Year and one for Album of the Year. From the very first notes of this title, it is impossible to overlook the catchy guitar riffs and lively melody, which contrast with a relatively somber music video. In concert, she affectionately calls the song her “murder ballad” and audiences rave to hear this song about sweet vengeance when Sunny comes home to right some of the wrongs in her childhood town.

A change of label (Nonesuch Records) did not mean a change of style in 2006 for Colvin. On the albumThese Four Walls, she collaborates with recording artists Patti Griffin and Teddy Thompson. The titles “Cinnamon Road” and “Let It Slide”, to name a few, are in perfect harmony with a refined, but very effective, folk style. You can feel the artist’s deep passion for music in the way her every song conveys chills and emotion, while demonstrating a perfect mastery of the instruments.

On her most recent release (All Fall Down, June 2012), Shawn Colvin invites us to enter her universe colored with melancholy and hope, which is reflected in the touching song “Up On That Hill.” This song reveals intimate songwriting, allowing Colvin to unveil even more personal experiences to her audience. All 11 tracks on the album have this special touch, driven by her calm and mesmerizing voice. Like an open book, she describes her profound feelings and we have the privilege of listening.

Balmy days are coming and if you do not already know Shawn Colvin, it is time to discover this amazing artist who will certainly become the soundtrack of your summer. To hear more:

Matthieu Saint-Wril
Sciences Po Aix en Provence, Intern BSP