Shawn Colvin mightn’t have quite the public profile of new-folk femmes like Sheryl Crowe and Jewel, but Sunny Goes Home was a megahit a couple of years back, and Colvin has plenty of clout where it counts. Her cred among musos is peerless and well earned.
This CD is replete with impressive female vocals from two camps. Sizzling old jazz redolent of smokey lounges and sensual sequins; and Colvin, Alison Krauss and Becca: contemporary chanteuses with plenty of class if not the smoulder of yesteryear.
Colvin’s Polaroids is from 1992 and not quite of the songwriting quality that has subsequently merited such respect. However attractively she coos her bittersweet phrases, however warm the play of acoustic and percussion, however sincere the simple but thoughtful lyric—very, on all counts—the awfully sweet, but awfully short melody is too laconic to sustain a song clocking in at just shy of six minutes.
A couple of minutes shorter, a couple of lyric cliches heavier, and an overall more tightly crafted confection is Alison Krauss’s Baby, Now That I’ve Found You. It’s a little less edgy than some of the folk-rock sister sounds flourishing in recent times, but it thrives on one of those rare melodic hooks that allow the simplest sentiments to rise above their station.
Becca is a new name to me, but she opens the disc with Only When I Dance. In desperate need of a great hook like Krauss’s it does have a quietly intoxicating feel and Becca’s voice is a lot like Sheryl Crowe’s and every bit as communicative.
But not as communicative as Sarah Vaughan. Not many are. Considered by many to belong beside Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald as the distaff triumvirate of Twentieth Century jazz, it only takes a few phrases “floating on the silence that s-u-u-u-rounds us” to know why.
Vaughan is worthily joined here by some smouldering Latin-tinged, Antonio Carlos Jobim jazz of the 1960s and ‘70s performed admirably by Astrud Gilberto and Sussanah McCorkle.
Finally, the blokes get a chance with Eman’s rather mediocre Wonderfully Strange redeemed by Mason Williams whistling romantically on the Trade Winds and Michael Andrew seductively crooning “The Best Is Yet To Come . . .”
He’s right too. The CD concludes with two suites from John Debney’s score, including a theme by the mercurial Danny Elfman. As one might expect no slushy romance from that source, instead the characteristically busy, cascading phrases educe ambiguous emotions. Ah, who can easily define the state of the heart? The only disappointment here is that perhaps the full score was worth a disc of its own.
Published July 12, 2001