"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Another Round of Blues

I recently finished reading Shawn Colvin's rollicking memoir Diamond in the Rough ahead of a concert I attended in Kansas City.  Ms. Colvin was performing with her good friend Mary Chapin Carpenter and I'm a big fan of both artists.  It was a great show with both ladies trading back and forth acoustic versions of their best songs and some stirring covers of the Beatles, Steve Earle and Crowded House.

I had seen Ms.Colvin in concert before so I was prepared for some witty banter and funny stories, and she offered plenty.  There is more of the same in her memoir too, including stories of exacting revenge on an ex-husband, her first European tour (as a back up singer for Suzanne Vega) and one very dangerous act of ritual cleansing involving a fireplace, an ex-lovers belongings, a match, and a closed chimney!  Along the way Ms. Colvin is quite honest about her marriages, her struggles with anxiety, depression, and motherhood.

And there's the music too. Ms. Colvin discusses the making of her albums  in great detail which is a real treat for fans.  Steady On was her big shot and her first album with producer John Leventhal.  It was a rocky arrangement with great results. Other great albums would follow including A Few Small Repairs which would earn Ms. Colvin critical praise,  sales, and two more Grammy awards. 

That was 1998 and in the years since then the big record labels have toppled and lots of music artists (including Ms. Colvin) have been let go, pushed aside and ignored by radio, record labels, retailers, you name it. It's a grind these days and musicians struggle to eek out a living, especially female singer-songwriters like Ms. Colvin (see also Cyndi Lauper's new memoir.) It means you spend most of the year on the road touring.  That's tough work if you can get it, and Ms. Colvin's frank memoir is not without heartache and great humor.  She's up to the task.

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