Shawn Colvin has joked that she “had writer’s block before I was even a writer.” Having penned some powerful songs (“Sunny Came Home” won two Grammys in 1998), she’s also released a pair of cover albums. This spare newcomer places Colvin’s subtly elastic voice at the center of ably curated acoustic covers of Bruce Springsteen’s “Tougher Than the Rest” (a jaw-dropping version), Paul Simon’s “American Tune” (capturing its bittersweet vulnerability), Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” (with David Crosby’s hushed vocals suggesting his “Guinnevere” period), and John Fogerty’s “Lodi,” about a journeyman musician to whom Colvin can clearly relate. It’s hard to imagine anyone but Colvin being able to stretch in so many directions; she even tackles Brenton Wood’s slinky 1967 soul hit “Gimme a Little Sign” and Tammy Wynette’s 1973 county hit “’Till I Get It Right.” Eagles guitarist Steuart Smith produces with meticulously understated care. There are no drums, just light percussion; pedal steel and acoustic guitars carry the day. Colvin struggles with the Band’s complex “Acadian Driftwood,” but otherwise shines.
ESSENTIAL “Tougher Than the Rest”
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