Upcoming Local Concerts: Carrie Underwood, Shawn Colvin, Old Crow and more!

May is going to be a spectacular month for concerts in Charleston, WV…

Country star and former American Idol winner Carrie Underwood will be at the Charleston Civic Center, with opener Hunter Hayes, on Wednesday, May 8th. Look for my review of that concert in next Thursday’s edition of The Charleston Gazette.

Lyle Lovett will visit The Clay Center on Friday, May 10th.

Comedian Lewis Black will hit The Clay Center on Thursday, May 16th.

Singer-songwriters Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter will perform as a duo during an extended set at a special Mountain Stage at The Clay Center on Sunday, May 19th. Crooked Still’s Aoife O’Donovan is also on the lineup. As an almost lifelong fan of Shawn Colvin, I’m very excited to be reviewing the show for Muruch.

The free Live on the Levee summer concert series will return to Charleston on May 24th. The acts haven’t been announced yet, but I do know Kathy Mattea will perform in June during Festivall week.

Just when you think it can’t get any better, Old Crow Medicine Show will put on a full concert at The Clay Center on Friday, May 24th! OCMS is one of my favorite modern bands, so reviewing their concert for Muruch is also cause for much excitement.

Shawn Colvin: All Fall Down

Singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin has made a very welcome return with her eighth studio album, All Fall Down. Collaborations with producer Buddy Miller (who first discovered Shawn three decades ago), Bill Frisell, Allison Krauss, Patty Griffin and Emmylou Harris add some fresh country flourishes, but overall the new songs stay true to the authentic, heartfelt acoustic folk-pop style of Shawn’s early releases. It’s a beautiful piece of work.

There are those we say are our favorite artists to anyone who asks. For me, they are Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Mahler, Allison Crowe, Anais Mitchell, Xavier Rudd, Florence + The Machine and Flogging Molly. And there are those that our old friends know were once among our favorites. For me, they are The Dresden Dolls, Joan Osborne, Hole, Sarah McLachlan, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin.

Then there are those few artists whose music is so important and personal to us, that not even our closest companions can ever truly grasp what they really mean to us. For me, they are Tori Amos, Patti Smith, Fiona Apple, Heather Nova, Holly Cole, Concrete Blonde, Sinead Lohan, and Shawn Colvin.

Shawn Colvin’s 1992 album Fat City and 1994’s Cover Girl affected me in a way I hear older people talk about Bob Dylan or other legendary songwriters. Shawn’s own song “Monopoly” and her covers of “Someday” and “Twilight” were there for me when no one else was, sharing my heartbreak and helping me through some very dark times. Even Shawn herself was a source of comfort with her candid interviews about her ongoing struggles with bipolar disorder and depression – which is why I’m eager to read her new memoir, Diamond in the Rough.

All Fall Down lives up to that substantial legacy of well-crafted, poetic honesty. A collection of post-breakup (possibly post-divorce?) anthems, the album was born from impromptu, live, in-studio jams between Shawn, Miller and her other musician cohorts.

The album opens with its catchy title track, followed by Shawn’s stunning cover of Rod MacDonald’s gritty ode to NYC (or ode to gritty NYC?), “American Jerusalem.”

The heartbroken ballad “Seven Times the Charm,” co-written by Jakob Dylan and featuring backing vocals by Alison Krauss, is another standout track.

“Anne of The Thousand Days” brilliantly uses Henry VIII as a metaphor for a lover with a long list of ex’s.

Patty Griffin lent her pen to “Change is on the Way,” while “I Don’t Know You” was co-written with Allison Krauss.

Emmylou Harris sings harmony on the gorgeous, atmospheric “Up on that Hill.” The song is perfectly paired with a lovely rendition of B.W. Stevenson’s “On My Own” for the album’s finale.

You can stream the entire album on Shawn’s official site.

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Ann Wilson: Hope & Glory

Ann Wilson is probably best known as the wailing brunette half of the pop-rock band Heart. The September 11th release Hope & Glory is Ann’s first solo album, though she only sings alone on three tracks. The rest of the disc is a collection of duets. Among the guest singers are Ann’s sister Nancy Wilson (the blonde guitarist half of Heart and wife of director Cameron Crowe), Elton John, K.D. Lang, Wynonna, Gretchen Wilson, Alison Krauss, Shawn Colvin, and Rufus Wainwright. Eleven of the twelve tracks are covers, with one original for the finale. Wilson tackles classics by Dylan, Lennon, Young, and Zeppelin as well as a modern classic by Lucinda Williams.

Hope & Glory is both better than I expect and somewhat of a disappointment. I feared that Ann may follow Linda Rhonstadt and Suzy Bogguss into softer territory rather than using the full potential of her voice, which I believe is one of the strongest female voices of the past four decades. But while Ann never fully unleashes those pipes, she does keep enough fire and depth in her singing to avoid mellow mediocrity.

The arrangements are also quite nice, often mixing pop and rock in a similar fashion to Heart with the addition of strings, steel, piano, and occasionally banjo for more melodic flow. I was pleasantly surprised by the slightly pumped up yet still very rustic take on Lucinda Williams’ “Jackson”.

Ann really shines during the few times that she has the spotlight to herself or when she shares it with her sister, particularly on the ominous “Goodbye Blue Sky”, her astounding cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”, and on the original track “Little Problems, Little Lies”.

Unfortunately, that powerhouse voice often seems confined in order not to outshine the weaker guest vocalists. Only Wynonna, who appears on the howling “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place”, seems capable of matching Ann’s range enough to allow her to really belt it out.

In the same way that Patti Smith recently used the songs of others to express her feelings on the state of the world today, the songs that Ann chose to cover on Hope & Glory share a theme of despair over war and hope for peace. I do hope that Ann will record a true solo album in the future, one that will grant her voice the freedom to soar to its full height. But there’s definitely more to enjoy than complain about in this initial step.

Ann Wilson MySpace

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