All Songs Considered

Song Premiere: Shawn Colvin, 'Hold On'


Courtesy of the artist

A cover song need not be a revolution. Singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin approaches her latest single, a Tom Waits cover, with a light enough touch to please her fans and Waits followers alike. It's that touch that made Colvin a household name in the '90s with her album A Few Small Repairs and its lead single, "Sunny Came Home," both of which stood out at the time (and still do) as subtle and nuanced missives from a musical era that was often less than subtle. This track, "Hold On," is the first single from Colvin's forthcoming album Uncovered, out Sept. 25 on Concord Records. The record will also include covers of songs by Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder, among others.

Colvin's respect for the original and an evocative slide guitar are her main contributions to "Hold On," and she uses both to warm, enveloping effect. The guitar amplifies the longing and hope in Waits' lyrics, and Colvin's voice (unsurprisingly, she does not aim to recreate his vocal style) nudges the already quietly powerful song closer to a gentle country ballad. Colvin is clearly a Waits fan — she covered "(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night" on her 1994 album Cover Girl and calls "Hold On" "another superb Waits song — dear and lonesome." Love of the primary source isn't always apparent, or even arguably necessary in a cover, but it's what makes this one ring true.

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