These Four Walls

With her penchant for storytelling, SHAWN COLVIN delivers songs of subtle simplicity, directness, and universal appeal. Despite the fact that she composes virtually none of her music (her longtime collaborator John Leventhal does that), her backing tracks always seem permanently fused to her words. ON THESE FOUR WALLS (Nonesuch), Colvin’s first recording in five years, there are moments that feel lacking in cleverness or depth (“So Good to See You,” “Fill Me Up”), but it’s not her way to hammer a point home. Colvin’s past includes stints at hard rock, western swing, and Off-Broadway, but she has found a method that works (check out her shelf of Grammys), and if it’s at times formulaic, well, the songs are the main thing: the Springsteen-like narrator (gender excluded) of “Summer Dress” yearning for something more, the wistful midlife resignation of the title track, and the fine Beatle-esque soaring of “Cinnamon Road” (with fellow Austinite Patty Griffin). It’s as close as Walls comes to a knockout punch. There are surprises, like a Paul Westerberg cover, but it’s primarily life, love, promise, regret—all wrapped in peerless adult pop.

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