Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Reference 160M Amplifier (February 2019)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)

Fantasy FAN-39674-02
Format: CD

Musical Performance

Sound Quality

Overall Enjoyment

Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle have both been around for some 30 years, each making music at the intersection of country, folk, and rock. In 2014, when Colvin asked Earle to join her for some shows late in that year, they discovered that their voices harmonized naturally. Their first recorded collaboration, Colvin & Earle, suggests that their songwriting styles mesh, too.

The album remains within the genres mentioned above, but changes styles and emphases to create a varied and entertaining selection of songs. “Come What May” is a good old country romp, the kind Nashville doesn’t do much anymore, and the two singers grab hold for the fun. The wall of acoustic guitars, strummed as much for percussive effect as for chords, gives the song a driving intensity that Earle and Colvin match with their emotionally strong performances.

“Tell Moses” takes spirituals for its template, reaching back to the Old Testament in the first verse before moving on to Selma and Ferguson for its message of protest and perseverance. Earle’s mandolin is the foundation for a complex tapestry of stringed instruments, and producer Buddy Miller fires off an effective, low-note guitar solo.

Colvin and Earle take turns singing lead in the verses of “The Way That We Do,” and sing the final verse together. The big sound of Chris Wood’s bass holds the song together, but it’s the contrast between the singers’ voices, and how well they harmonize, that make this track so effective.

Colvin & Earle

Earle plays a battery of stringed instruments, and his mandolin helps drive the loose fun of “Happy and Free,” which would be a throwaway were it not performed so well. Miller and electric guitarist Richard Bennett bring a swampy funkiness to “You’re Right (I’m Wrong),” and to a lively cover of John D. Loudermilk’s “Tobacco Road.”

Two other covers -- the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” and Ian & Sylvia’s “You Were On My Mind” -- suggest that, like many of us, Colvin (born in 1956) and Earle (b. 1955) musically came of age in the mid-1960s, when folk, rock, and all manner of pop mingled on the AM dial. Their take on “Ruby Tuesday” is affectionate, if not revelatory, but “You Were On My Mind” is an effective revisiting of a great folk song tailor-made for this duo.

The deluxe edition of Colvin & Earle contains three extra songs. Colvin’s harmonies add a tender touch to “Someday,” a song from Earle’s first album, Guitar Town (1986). Earle’s voice brings some grit to Colvin’s “That Don’t Worry Me Now,” making the song more effective and moving than it was on Colvin’s These Four Walls (2006). “Baby’s in Black” emphasizes the country-music heritage of this Lennon-McCartney tune, which Buddy Miller brings into focus with obbligati and bent notes.

Even with the inclusion of such strong, well-known material, the songs Colvin and Earle have cowritten stand up well, and Miller’s balance of rock, country, and folk arrangements gives a good picture of how versatile these singers are.

The sound is dense but exciting, and Wood’s bass sounds big and impressive throughout. Miller has given the guitars and other acoustic instruments a bright sheen, but it’s the voices that are at the center of the recording, and rightly so. With any luck, Colvin and Earle will soon make another recording as soulful as this one.

. . . Joseph Taylor