Personnel: Shawn Colvin (vocals, acoustic guitar).
Audio Mixer: John Alagia.
Recording information: Cedar Creek Studios, Austin, TX; Market Street, Santa Monica, CA.
Unknown Contributor Role: Steuart Smith.
Shawn Colvin was one of the few pure singer/songwriters who broke through to mainstream success in the 1990s, and with good reason -- her songs have the strength and emotional honesty to satisfy her core folkie crowd, while her breathy but powerful voice communicates with enough force to be a lot more than just a vehicle for her lyrics. It also helps that she isn't afraid of a good pop melody, as her taste in covers suggests, and that she can write one herself when she's so inclined, indicated by the fact she had actual hit singles with "Sunny Came Home" and "I Don't Know Why." Polaroids: A Greatest Hits Collection is a Shawn Colvin compilation whose focus is summed up quite clearly by its subtitle -- her best-known songs are all here, for the most part, while lesser-known and fan-focused material doesn't make the cut, most notably anything from her bare-bones Live '88 album, which still ranks with her best and most passionate work. (And shame on Sony for not including what would have the ideal hidden track -- Colvin's witty musical performance as Christian songbird Rachel Jordan on The Simpsons.) But as a sampler of Colvin's work or an introduction for beginners, Polaroids: A Greatest Hits Collection serves its purpose well -- there's plenty of fine music (including a newly recorded cover of the Beatles' "I'll Be Back" that's exclusive to this collection) that offers a clear and concise picture of Colvin's creative arc to date, and this is a consistently pleasurable listen from start to finish. With any luck, in another 15 years she'll have another set of songs this strong for Polaroids, Pt. 2. ~ Mark Deming