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.