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Weekend Reviews | Pop

'Sunny' Comes Home With a Solo, Acoustic Concert That Charms

April 13, 1998|MIKE BOEHM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Shawn Colvin has taken on ballast lately in ways healthy for her fame, her happiness and her artistry.

The Grammys she won in February for "Sunny Came Home"--as best record and song of the year--are the kind of cargo that can make a career sail smoothly; the acclaim brought an extra buzz to the evening on Saturday as she began a four-night run of solo-acoustic shows (ending Tuesday) at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano.

The South Dakota-raised, Austin, Texas-based singer-songwriter has enjoyed welcoming crowds there in many stops since the early 1990s, and no ice needed to be broken with this adoring, near-capacity house.

Colvin didn't mention the Grammys, much less crow about them, but she was clearly delighted to be carrying another large trophy front and center under a maternity dress. Following the familiar folkie's ploy of making use of whatever comes to hand to amuse and charm an audience, Colvin made child-bearing a focus for between-songs observations and storytelling so relaxed that the stage seemed like her backyard patio.

Most important, Colvin's current album, "A Few Small Repairs," has the weight and cohesiveness her three previous ones lacked. Drawing mainly from "Repairs," she applied her airy, youthful voice and distinctive, chopped-out guitar rhythms, to resonant, pared-to-essentials material that exceeded her earlier, superficially attractive but seldom involving work.

Colvin has learned to state less and imply more in her writing, and she found a thematic focus with songs that illustrate how people can trap, deny and diminish themselves, to the point where it may be necessary to incinerate all the baggage they've accumulated and start again. Hearing "Sunny" in a bare, acoustic form bolstered the Grammy voters' verdict.

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