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Shawn Colvin

Maybe it's just the echo of my inner female, but I feel a great sense of nurturing from the songs and music of Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and contemporary folk goddess Shawn Colvin.

Not only does she write lovely, sometimes wrenching songs, but there is that voice. It's a high, girlish chirp that can be either hoarse or breathy. Exploiting what might otherwise be technical weaknesses, she uses her voice as a richly expressive instrument that also seems to hint at a deep cache of emotion that may never be fully expressed, only felt.

On her latest album--her first collection of new songs in five years--Colvin gives her fans a gem in "Tuff Kid," which may turn out to be this year's "Shotgun Down the Avalanche" or "Sunny Came Home." Pumped up with rock guitar and longtime musical collaborator John Leventhal's inventive arrangement, this simple tale of escaping small-town life combines the melodic spirits of Paul Simon and Steely Dan with a carefree spirit and a bit of cynicism. It deserves to be her next hit on adult-alternative radio.

Colvin also shows incredible range, able to turn on a dime from the austere, jazzy examination of desire in "Venetian Blue" to the Byrdsian jangle of "The Bird." She draws on her early fascination with Joni Mitchell for the painful, complicated emotions in "So Good to See You," and offers thoughtful interpretations of Paul Westerberg's "Even Here We Are" and The Bee Gees' "Words."

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