MUSIC BOX: Colvin stands her ground

By on August 11, 2015

Grammy-winning songwriter croons at Center Theater


Songstress Shawn Colvin strums at the Center for the Arts Monday.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Trekking directly from Rocky Mountain Folk Festival to Jackson’s Center for the Arts, singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin will be playing a concert Monday. She was instrumental in reviving folk music in the 1980s while technology was breeding droves of synthesizer tweekers. Somewhat of an instantaneous major label success story, Colvin’s debut record, “Steady On,” won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1989. Since then, she has taken home an additional two Grammys and been nominated for an additional seven.

Her artistry is headlined by a pop influence, though without the clichés that continue to doom a majority of dance-pop and country-pop from being memorable. Take for instance her commercial peak, 1997 single “Sunny Came Home.” It has a rootsy intro featuring a mandolin before the huge, hooky acoustic guitar riff thrives over a funky backbeat. When the strong, simplistic vocal melody completes the hook you have what has defined her successful songwriting career. Her contemporaries Tracy Chapman, Suzanne Vega and The Indigo Girls hold similar attributes. The success did not come without trials and tribulations.

After a stint with the hard-rocking Shawn Colvin Band and a Western swing band, Dixie Diesels, her vocal nodes were too strained, forcing a break at age 24. She moved from Illinois to Austin to New York City where she would work her way up the folk circuit for the remainder of the decade.

“I got a chance to really cut my teeth on down and dirty, struggling hard work in this business,” Colvin told PBS. “Nothing came to me on a silver platter. I also got a chance to slowly build an audience. I took a year off at some point, after I got sober, actually, because I was told, ‘your identity is not necessarily the music. You’re another entity. The music is what you choose. It’s what you do.’ I thought, well, I’m going to choose not to do it, then, and see who I am. About a year later I thought, ‘But wait, I’m good at music. What if I never really try to find out who I am musically?’ That was a very quick trajectory from there for me to zero-in about the fact that I’m a good solo performer, just like my idols. I’m good at being a confessional, open, honest writer. I turned a corner.”

Battles with alcoholism, depression, and anorexia hounded Colvin at different points in her career. As resilient artists will do, she utilized those down swings as fuel for new material and rose up singing. Both her life and professional experiences shine through on her latest release, 2012’s “All Fall Down,” which was produced by her occasional bandmate, acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Buddy Miller, at his home studio in Nashville. Despite the album title, the material is about standing ground. An open-door policy encouraged drop-ins from a number of stellar musicians, including singers Emmylou Harris, Allison Krauss, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Jakob Dylan as well as fiddle extraordinaire Stuart Duncan.

Shawn Colvin, 8 p.m., Monday at the Center Theater. $49-$59., 733-4900.

Minimalist garage rockers JEFF the  Brotherhood play KHOL’s donor party at the Pink Garter Tuesday.

Minimalist garage rockers JEFF the Brotherhood play KHOL’s donor party at the Pink Garter Tuesday.

KHOL thanks donors with JEFF the Brotherhood

Crunchy party-pop anthems and bare bones garage rock are a fundamental part of electric guitar/drum duo JEFF the Brotherhood. Brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall can craft some powerful hooks, perhaps the key ingredient in this post-White Stripes universe in which the instrumentation alone limits the textural potential.

The vibe in the air will be celebratory, as Jackson Hole Community Radio (KHOL 89.1 FM) has just completed another membership drive. The station has really blossomed since moving into the Center for the Arts with the addition of online streaming and the uptick in on-air community interviews. All new and renewing members who donate at the $35 level or more will be put on the guest list for this “Thank You Party.” The show is also open to the general public.

KHOL presents JEFF the Brotherhood, 9 p.m., Tuesday at the Pink Garter Theatre. $12-$15., 733-1500. PJH

Aaron Davis is an award-winning singer-songwriter, journalist, multi-instrumentalist, frontman for bands Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, and founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley.

About Aaron Davis

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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