Shawn Colvin
A Few Small Repairs


4.5
superb

Review

by neekafat CONTRIBUTOR (57 Reviews)
January 20th, 2017 | 26 replies


Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A folk masterpiece forgotten by time.

There are few albums that I come to associate with my father more than A Few Small Repairs. Whether it be that opening twang of "Sunny Came Home" that takes me back to the endless hours he would play it on repeat, or Colvin's crooning voice narrating our annual pilgrimage to Florida on "Wichita Skyline," it's something I always listen to and expect to my dad rocking his head slightly to the beat when I turn my head.

Of course, once he hooked me on it I had plenty of time to form my own personal attachment to the tracks. The mournful ballad "Trouble" finds the perfect balance of instrumental beauty and a somber sense of grace, and combined with exceptionally captivating lyrics, it all rounds out to one of the best songs I've yet to find on this Earth. A couple songs later, on the minimalistic piano tune "If I Were Brave," Colvin sings of the universality of loneliness. Lines like "A thousand lonely lifetimes I still wait and then go on/A clown to entertain the happy couples" delighted my emotional middle-school self to no end.

If it seems like lyrics are being mentioned often in this review, it's because they're some of the best to ever be written in the genre. Colvin's country/folk stylings are much more musical than they are lyrical, and it shows in the more mature topics of heartbreak and identity that she grapples with on nearly every song. It's a concept album really, one that centers among those very emotions she felt in the wake of her divorce. One track of particular merit, aside from those previously noted, is the gorgeously minimalistic "The Facts About Jimmy." Weaved between the chiming guitars and gentle percussion is a story of isolation and claustrophobia, told with such honesty and scorn that you're very glad you're not whatever Jimmy pissed Shawn Colvin off.

Perhaps it's the personal significance of the album that makes me so surprised at the lack of appreciation it has. Sure, any radio-listener from the 90s will recognize the one-hit wonder of "Sunny Came Home," which also snagged Record and Song of the Year at the Grammys. Yet despite this and the glowing reviews it received at the time, the album seems to have faded into obscurity as the genre grew out of fashion.

That's just a damned shame, since there's a lot on the album that country skeptics and folk lovers would enjoy. While much of the album can be found in the darkened corners of folk music such as "84,000 Different Delusions," the songs range from the masterfully orchestrated ballads mentioned before to the rock-influenced stomp of "Get Out of This House" and the snappy pop of "Nothin' On Me," which serves as an upbeat and hopeful ending to an otherwise sobering experience.

That's not to say that there aren't any low points to be noted here. The closer Colvin strays toward a straightforward country sound, the less interesting her songs sound. "I Want it Back" tries to skirt that line between being clever and being a romp but ultimately appears disappointingly repetitive and uninteresting compared to the rest of the album, and "New Thing Now," the only cover of the bunch, fails to add anything new after a series of already slow and downtrodden numbers, no matter how lovely her rendition may sound.

In the end, however, these few faults are vastly outweighed by the sheer force of the emotion Colvin infuses into her sparse but lush soundscapes. The songs weave smoothly into each other despite their variety, and not once do you doubt the artist's intentions to create an honest tribute to heartbreak and loss. It's no wonder that my father was so moved by the simple feel of the record after a life of successful and unsuccessful love. I'm constantly thankful that he passed it down to me, it taught me that heartbreak isn't an individual experience, and that one should never keep their eye off the light at the end of the tunnel.



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user ratings (14)
Chart.
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
January 20th 2017


16636 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I think I'm gettin' the hang of these shorter reviews (compared to my early stuff at least).

Let me know whatcha think of the review, and please check out the album if it sounds good to you!

Divaman
January 20th 2017


3991 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nice to this reviewed here. Good job.

Digging: Barrie - Happy To Be Here

TVC15
January 20th 2017


10169 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

YE



I'll read it when I get home from school tomorrow

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
January 20th 2017


16636 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@Diva, thanks duder. Gonna try to review some lesser-known folk albums from time-to-time on here I think

@TVC, lemme know what you think!

jtswope
January 20th 2017


5788 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Never thought this would get a review, but great job bud.

AsleepInTheBack
January 20th 2017


5998 Comments


very good review man, pos from me.

one tweak: "Of course, once he hooked me on it I had plenty of time to form my own personal memories [with] the tracks." or "Of course, once he hooked me on it I had plenty of time to form my own personal [attachment] to the tracks."

also the language is arguably a little overstated, throwing words around like 'masterpiece' and one of the best songs I've ever heard, and then slapping a 4 on it, but I can tell its a personal one so that kind of stuff is expected. Good job

theBoneyKing
January 20th 2017


17075 Comments


Nice review. You did a pretty good job of balancing the personal and "objective" aspects.

My only experience with Colvin is her collab album with Steve Earle from last year which I admittedly wasn't impressed by, but I may still try this regardless.

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
January 20th 2017


16636 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks guys!

@jtswope, yeah I figured it was about time someone put something together for it and it's such an important album for me I thought I might as well!

@asleep, thanks as always man! Fixed, and I get what you're saying. This album could be a 5 but it's let down by a few songs that bring it down in the end

@Boney, yeah that's something I've definitely been working on lately. Oh boy, I've never heard that, but I'd definitely try out "Trouble" of "The Facts About Jimmy"

Divaman
January 20th 2017


3991 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great idea, neeka. I'll forward to reading these reviews.

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
January 20th 2017


16636 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@Diva, yeah thinking about doing "Stones in the Road" by Mary Chapin Carpenter next!

Divaman
January 20th 2017


3991 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nice.

TVC15
January 20th 2017


10169 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Yeah man I really love the balance between personal and objective. Very well written review!

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
January 20th 2017


2991 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Super small nitpicks: "...it all rounds out to one of the best songs I've yet to find on this Earth". I know what it means, but I can't make it make sense to me. For "go on /A clown," if you're formatting lyrics like this, I don't think there needs to be a space after on; in "minimalistic piano tune of "If I Were Brave,"" I don't think the "of" should be there else it sounds like you're referring just to the piano melody in that song. And "a individual", should be "an". In the fourth paragraph, the "sure" statement isn't counterpointed well enough, which I think a simple "Yet" before the "despite" could help make read better. Like I said, "super small nitpicks" : P



Fantastic job, mate, very well-written, easy pos from me. Keep up the good work, jealous of how good you are at pumping out these reviews, each of which reads better and exceedingly more natural. And you're right, this looks like something I have to listen to (and Harrod and Funck). I like the idea of you covering these more obscure folk releases.

Digging: Florist (NY) - Emily Alone

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
January 21st 2017


16636 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks, all!



@Blushful no worries, as always I really appreciate it since I was never good at proofreading my own stuff! Thanks man, I'm really trying to get them out there and to keep practicing writing, glad you like it!

TwigTW
January 21st 2017


3813 Comments


Sunny came home with a vengeance... It's easy to play that song a couple of times before diving into the rest of the album. Good review--and a good reminder to play an album I haven't listened to in a long while.

Digging: P.P. Arnold - The New Adventures of ...

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
January 21st 2017


16636 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Sunny is so good, really one of the best on here

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2017


2991 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Album's so good. ((:

TVC15
January 25th 2017


10169 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

A shame I couldn't find this at my record store. Hope one day it'll just pop up in there, used and seen better days and all lol

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
January 25th 2017


16636 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@Blushful, glad you like it dude!

@TVC, that's too bad, I found mine used too haha

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
December 13th 2017


16636 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"A thousand lonely lifetimes I still wait and then go on

A clown to entertain the happy couples"



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