Colvin & Earle Share Common Bonds & Make Poignant Recordings (ALBUM REVIEW)

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colvinearle2At first glance, it seems like an unlikely pairing. Yet on first listen, the skepticism can be shoved aside. In truth, Steve Earle and Shawn Colvin share a common bond, because each has known their share of individual challenges, Earle as a former substance abuser and Colvin as an individual who overcame depression and other personal demons.

These days however, each of them rank among today’s most important musical voices, both boasting an indelible catalog that’s elevated them to Americana’s highest plateaus. That said, Colvin & Earle fits Colvin’s MO especially well, given that the album’s quotient of cover songs likens it to last year’s Uncovered, the second set of songs that’s found her retracing familiar favorites. For this, their first collaborative set (despite having known each other for nearly 30 years), they show that they share similar musical tastes by covering four songs of enduring appeal — “You Were On My Mind,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Raise the Dead,” and Tobacco Road” — and rendering them with a superbly crafted sound that reflects both inspiration and affection.

With Buddy Miller overseeing the production and a crack back-up band in tow, the duo keep things loose and unconstricted, sharing casual harmonies that are poignant, but generally not too precise. There’s a celebratory tone inscribed in each of the album’s offerings overall, a spirited sound that characterizes the material, regardless of origin. “Come What May,” “Happy and Free” and “Tell Moses” exemplify a cool, carefree attitude that rings with acoustic guitars, stirring melodies and the kind of back porch revelry that downplays any hint of posturing or pretence. Not exactly a dynamic duo, but a well-primed pairing nonetheless, Colvin & Earle has a loose feeling that reflects the fact these two longtime friends can simply trust the mutual familiarity factor to steer the proceedings as needed. That casual cool simply works well.

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