It's a bit of a misnomer to call this album Live. I'm not suggesting listeners sue anyone for truth in advertising. This is, in fact, a live album and if Shawn Colvin wants to follow in the footsteps of 100,000 other artists and name her live album Live, she's perfectly free to do that. I'm not going to spend a great deal of time focusing on connotative and denotative meanings, but it feels like there is something missing in the title that doesn't quite prepare listeners for the journey they're about to take. Live is at once something more and something less than a live album.
Colvin performs songs from across her career as a solo artist and even mixes in an unexpected, oddball cover of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy." We'll come back to that, though. It's easy to listen to her studio records over the years and apply the label singer/songwriter, but it would be just as possible for someone to listen to the record and not come away with that sense. Her musical collaborator John Leventhal always does a great job of shaping the songs and adding dimension to them without overwhelming them.
What's surprising about Live is how much there is to strip away for a solo acoustic performance like this. Even more revealing is just how great an interpreter Colvin is. She doesn't re-invent these songs, instead brushes away the lovely crumbs of sonic adornment listeners are used to hearing with them. They didn't need to be stripped this bare, but Colvin's great vocal performance make it a worthwhile experiment.
On the surface, this will sound like the kind of thing you'd listen to or buy at Starbucks and the coffeehouse crowd won't be disappointed. What elevates this above the endless spate of singer/songwriters is Colvin and her songs. This is not amateur hour. A lifetime of ups and downs inform these songs and there is an empathy in her voice that elevates her above the pack of pleasant sounding, well-meaning pretenders.