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Shawn Colvin & Steve EarleShawn Colvin & Steve Earle
Album: Colvin & Earle
Label: Fantasy
Tracks: 10

Shawn and Steve had first crossed paths close on 30 years ago when Shawn opened for one of Steve's solo acoustic performances, but the genesis for this full album collaboration didn't come about until Shawn had toured with Mary Chapin Carpenter a couple of years ago and felt that Steve would be a good person to share a similar artistic experience with. And how right she was! For the chemistry was proved in a series of stage shows, notably on a moving duet rendition of his song Someday (which she'd memorably covered on her 1994 Cover Girl album) - which surprisingly does not appear on this debut duo record (only as one of the bonus cuts on the deluxe edition, I'm told).

This ten-tracker studio album was produced by Buddy Miller, and captures all the thrust and frisson of the pairing on a set that mixes fresh self-penned originals with carefully chosen covers. The former include inevitable but very perceptive reflections on relationships, like the brooding yet sanguine You're Right (I'm Wrong) and the melancholy, rueful The Way That We Do, and the touching album closer You're Still Gone (which started out from a two-verse fragment written by Julie Miller). Then, at the other end of the spectrum, we find rousing gospeller Tell Moses and swaggering rocker Come What May (the first song Steve and Shawn wrote together).

The covers take in a stomping revisit of Tobacco Road and an upbeat take on You Were On My Mind (the Ian & Sylvia number that was a hit for Crispian St. Peters), as well as a generous take on Ruby Tuesday that in spite of some felicitous scoring doesn't quite capture the intensity of the original song (or its raw-edged Melanie cover, also a hard act to follow in anyone's book!). By comparison, the fourth cover, Raise The Dead (which turns out to be a fairly obscure Emmylou Harris number), doesn't make much of an impression.

So - Colvin & Earle is every inch the dream (performing) team it promises to be, although it probably sells itself short on record judging by this album. But hey, it's not rubbish by any means, and the aforementioned interpersonal chemistry is there in spades, well focussed by Buddy and complemented by his team of musicians comprising guitarist Richard Bennett (a blast from Steve's Guitar Town past), bassist Chris Wood and drummer Fred Eltringham.

David Kidman