Two American singer/songwriters with deep roots in folk and country rock have revived a classic stance from early country tradition – the duo.
Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle eschew slickness in favour of stomp on their first recording, Colvin and Earle.
The duo practise an inviting form of tough-sounding acoustic- based instrumentation and twangy harmonies that sound honed through time and back porch hangouts. The pair have chemistry, the instinctual kind where some form of ESP is involved. It makes for good down home rocking, and their version of the old ‘60s jam Tobacco Road is an elemental s–t kicker of a story song. They carry this gut level delivery into a cover of The Rolling Stones’ Ruby Tuesday that reflects that band’s own roots-based masterpiece Beggars Banquet.
The roots and Americana-tinged atmosphere is a natural intersect for Colvin and Earle. Earle came out swinging early on in the ‘80s with Guitar Town and Colvin’s later quieter hits had plaintive folk reflections, but both musicians were from similar traditions. Here they use acoustic and electric guitars equally for support and rhythm and they move easily from gospel (Tell Me Moses) acoustic country rock (Come What May) traditional melodies (You Were On My Mind, Happy and Free) and foreboding swamp rock (You’re Right, I’m Wrong).
It’s a recording that hasn’t any questionable pauses; it’s full of intent and tough emotional songs. If the record has a theme, it’s the unity of sound and style that comes from stripping back the music and playing for the song. For real.
– Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews the latest music in Street Sounds for The Morning Star every Friday.