Thursday, June 14, 2012


We haven't heard much of Colvin for a bit, but now we get a bonanza, with a new album and a recent autobiography, if you want to find out about the hard travels an artist endures on the way to a career.  While depression and addiction are hardly new topics for musicians, coming out the other end okay is rarer.  If you are a fan from back a bit, you've probably felt some of the darker times as you've listened.  Not that she's a downer, but she's someone who can examine deeper topics.

Colvin always knows how to pack an emotional punch, with her own songs or when choosing work by others.  Part of that is her voice and delivery.  She saves the belting for her very rare, and biggest numbers, and most of the time she's at about half-volume, where she can add a lot of drama and inflection.  On this collection, falling is the big image, as things around crumble, whether they are relationships or cities or society.  The title track is the lead cut, the big number on the album, a single if such a thing exists for her.  It's one of her rare uptempo ones, almost a rocker, with an infectious chorus, and a big production built surprisingly around a single hand clap.  Songwriter Rod MacDonald contributes the next one, American Jerusalem, about the collapse of morality in today's modern marketplace, New York City substituting for the temple where Jesus kicked out the money-lenders.  Later, in Fall Of Rome, the city is crumbling, the Titanic is sinking, and there's nothing anyone can do except hope there's a morning after, all this a metaphor for a relationship ending. 

Fall Of Rome features a killer harmony from Jakob Dylan, one of several strong guest spots on the disc.  Emmy Lou Harris shows up for a couple, as does Alison Krauss, and Buddy and Julie Miller both contribute.  No surprise on the latter, as Buddy expertly produced the disc, assembling a dream team, and an uncluttered sound that perfectly compliments her voice.  The redoubtable Viktor Krauss handles bass, and both Miller and whiz Bill Frisell take guitar duties.  Best sounding of all perhaps is drummer Brian Blade, the secret weapon in Daniel Lanois' sound.  Listen for the incredible rolls in Anne Of The Thousand Days.

I haven't read the book, I don't know what's happening in her private life, or how biographical she likes to be in her writing.  I usually don't want to know this stuff anyway, I like to put some distance between the song and the creator.  It feels like she wants to pass on some hope for those who have to go through the end of something, with another falling reference in Change Is On The Way:  "The sky will fall/Peace will come/I'll get over you/And I guess even the sun/Will burn itself out one day/And I feel like a change in on the way."  As I said earlier, emotional punch.

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