As Shawn Colvin has aged well and looks much the same as she did when she first started playing regularly in the UK during the late eighties and early nineties (as back-up singer for Suzanne Vega, more bizarrely as support act for Runrig), it is easy to forget that she is less than two months away from her fiftieth birthday and something of a veteran of the singer-songwriter circuit.
Though the past three decades have brought her varying degrees of success, and seen her produce at least one bona fide classic album (‘Fat City’) and a number of memorable tunes elsewhere, the reasons for her apparent inability to reach another level of stardom are very evident in this intimate, likeable performance.
Without a band, Colvin’s songs, though well-constructed seem often like the product of hard graft rather than natural flair, her voice limited and her stage presence never entirely comfortable.
Starting with a Bee Gees’ song (‘Words’) and three others, including the title track, from her current album, ‘These Four Walls’ is a tactical mistake as they pale next to the majesty of ‘Shotgun Down The Avalanche’ and one of the oldest songs on offer, ‘Polaroids.’
As if to prove that her peak writing period came between 1990 and 1996, ‘Don’t Know Why’, ‘Round of Blues’ and ‘Sonny Come Home’ are the other standouts, while in the raft of interpretations, the more obvious (Steve Earle’s ‘Someday’ and Jimmy Webb’s ‘If These Old Walls Could Speak’) fare much better than the more adventurous takes on Talking Heads and Gnarls Barkley.
While it is easy to illustrate Colvin’s lack of musical progress, she has a great catalogue to fall back on which redeems this slightly tired outing.