Release Date: Jun 10, 2016
Record label: Fantasy
Maverick country star Earle and folkie Colvin unite with all the bass-thrumming, drum-thumping good feeling of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’s feted team-up. Here the producer and guitarist is Americana god Buddy Miller (central to Plant’s solo projects) who brings together the perhaps unlikely pairing on self-penned numbers such as the sweaty, dark You’re Right (I’m Wrong) along with four disparate covers: The Nashville Teens’ Tobacco Road, Ruby Tuesday, Ian and Sylvia Tyson’s folk gem You Were On My Mind and Emmylou Harris’ Rise The Dead. Earle’s slurring nonchalance and Colvin’s precise delivery are a joy as they weave around each other amid squealing harmonica and distorted, rocking guitars.
Shawn Colvin has landed a few tunes on the pop charts over the course of her career, and Steve Earle was briefly a legitimate country star. But in 2016, as the two team up for their first album as a duo, Colvin & Earle are folkies -- hip folkies, to be sure, but at heart two singer/songwriters on the far side of 50 who like swapping harmonies and strumming their acoustic guitars. Colvin & Earle sound like good friends who enjoy singing together, and this album has a lively and spontaneous atmosphere, especially when the two are singing old covers.
Steve Earle has moved on, yet again. The last album from one of the finest, most versatile songwriters of the Americana scene was Terraplane, a celebration of the blues, clearly influenced by his seventh divorce. Now comes a series of duets performed and mostly written with the Grammy-winning singer Shawn Colvin. The producer is the great guitarist Buddy Miller, the band includes guitarist Richard Bennett, who played on Earle’s gutsy breakthrough album Guitar Town in 1986, and the new set has the easy, upbeat confidence of his early work.
One of the beautiful things about the implosion of major record label (aside from the obvious schadenfreude of watching folks who exploited their artists for decades while lining their own pockets suddenly be out of work via consolidations, much like they tossed out their musicians), is that a record like Colvin & Earle likely never would have surfaced when both were signed to major labels. The self-titled album is a mix of Folk, Blues, Country and Americana without any hint of an obvious radio single or trying to appeal to the widest audience possible. It’s simply two talented artists playing music that they obviously dig and the result is just as fun to listen to.
Longtime pals Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle don’t quite mesh on their first album together; they’re two performers doing their own thing, just jointly. But whatever internal cohesiveness “Colvin & Earle” lacks is made up for by its warm, casual immediacy. There’s not a note on the album that doesn’t sound like it was recorded (and possibly mixed) live in the room.
Colvin & Earle (Fantasy) When Shawn Colvin cut Steve Earle's "Someday" for her Grammy-nominated 1994 LP Cover Girl, she was a rising chart-topper of crossover folk, and he'd just been released from jail on a heroin bust. Twenty years later, the pair's realignment for an album of co-writes and covers shows off both as wise and generous collaborators. Buddy Miller's sure-handed production places the natural chemistry between Colvin and Earle front and center while also pushing each other in new directions.