No one can accuse Shawn Colvin of being a tease. Rather than reserving her biggest hit for the encores, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and guitarist performed a stirring version of "Sunny Came Home" shortly after walking onstage at Wolf Trap Wednesday night. Afterward, she told the audience that anyone who came to the concert solely enticed by that song was now free to go home. Nice policy, but no one appeared to be rushing for the exits.
Still, Colvin's gesture was a reminder of just how large her audience has grown in the past few years. Before releasing "A Few Small Repairs," the album that features "Sunny Came Home," Colvin was touring large venues as an opening act for Jackson Browne, alone and largely unappreciated. Now she draws thousands of people to her summer concerts, die-hards as well as newcomers, and Wednesday night she managed to delight both groups with plenty of help from local guitar ace Stuart Smith.
While several good songs were drawn from "A Few Small Repairs," including the evocative "Wichita Skyline" and impassioned "I Want It," Colvin also reached deep into her repertoire to retrieve "Shotgun Down the Avalanche," "I Don't Know Why" and other tunes that first brought her attention on the club circuit. Her silvery voice, which tends to wear thin over the course of a long performance, held up quite well, sounding warm and defiant by turns, and the mood shifts were beautifully underscored by Smith's atmospheric electric guitar work. As for the duo's traditional Wolf Trap sendup of Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond's rendering of "You Don't Send Me Flowers," suffice to say than neither of those singers will be sending Colvin and Stuart a bouquet any time soon.
Texas singer-songwriter Steve Earle, who opened the show, was in typically raspy and emotionally restless form, delivering a stripped-down, guitar-and-harmonica version of his recent performance at the Birchmere.