“Whole New You” is an apt title for Shawn Colvin’s first album of original material since she walked away with two of the top Grammys in 1998 for “Sunny Came Home.” Her perspective is that of a secure mother aided by a sound that has been fleshed out in tandem with her steady collaborator John Leventhal. “Whole New You” extends the sophisticated blend of folk and pop that made her last album, “A Few Small Repairs,” such a standout upon its release, including more non-rootsy instruments such as the bass clarinet, melodica and electronic drums.
Her show is no longer a career-spanner, yet it reveals a delightful cohesiveness that works well in positioning Colvin in the here and now rather than tracking how she got to this point.
Her three-year absence from the new release bins in record stores owes to her motherhood; the layoff reveals itself not so much as a subject as an attitude in the playful lullaby “One Small Year.” Her songwriting is more textured than ever and her veteran band sparked every tune, even making the new “Another Plane Went Down” sound like the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” slowed to quarter speed.
A good two-thirds of her new album made it into her nearly two-hour show, starting with the midtempo rocker “A Matter of Minutes” and closing the main set with the title track, which she says she’s been playing for TV shows a lot lately.
“Whole New You” was released Tuesday and results of her hefty promotional efforts should reveal themselves in the next SoundScan report. Set was buoyed by an assortment of tales, some obviously planned and others seemingly off the cuff, especially when she brought up former producer Larry Klein (he did her “Fat City” in 1992) to play bass on Roly Salley’s “Killing the Blues.”
Colvin bunched up the favorites for the end: a solo reading of “Polaroids,” which now feels formless in contrast to her newer works; “Wichita Skyline,” the twangy guitar part of which extends to several tunes on the new disc; and, of course, “Sunny Came Home.”
Rarely do artists make album titles such an accurate description of their current state of mind, and Colvin’s demeanor definitely suggests a far greater interest in seeing how her new work fits than what can be discovered in her worthy past.