A Hard Story That's an Easy Read
In her memoir, titled Diamond in the Rough after the first song she ever wrote, Colvin does what all great memoirists do. She explores every avenue, no matter how paved or dirtied, meandering or direct, embarrassing or proud, which has led to the person she is now. Much of this is riddled with self-doubt, confusion, depression, and, for a time, addiction.
Giving Props to New York and Boston
At some point, she found herself in New York, surrounded by the right people who were in it for the right reasons. She played in Buddy Miller's band and had gigs at the Bottom Line and swapped tunes with the likes of Suzanne Vega and Lucy Kaplansky and John Gorka. Vega invited her to tour Europe as a backup singer and she figured why not. It was a steady job in music with an opportunity to see the world. It turned out to be quite the definitive, defining experience. But, though Colvin is often hailed as one of the greatest exports of the Fast Folk group in New York from the 1980s, she credits her rise on the scene to an ongoing relationship with beloved Boston listening room Club Passim.
It was because of her gigs there that she disciplined herself about writing, and thus developed the strong voice we know today. She’d figured out how to dazzle New York crowds, but knew the Passim folks weren’t going to put up with razzle-dazzle. They wanted songs they could sink their teeth into.
She explores the way this influenced her music and gives a great amount of credit to both that relationship and the one she forged with guitarist and producer John Leventhal. Like most people who have grappled with depression, Colvin gives an incredible amount of appreciation to her friends and confidants in this book, admitting the amount to which she has leaned on them and relied on their feedback and, subsequently, the ways in which those relationships have impacted her work as an artist.
In a recent interview, Colvin told me one journalist read the book and noted that he came out concerned about her well-being. It’s a fair fear, all told. Like I said, Colvin hasn’t lived the easy life. But she also makes no mistake about counting her blessings.
The Bottom Line
Eventually she found a way to harness them, and came out the other end with greater personal peace and insight. And, it’s safe to say, decades of remarkably composed, emotionally stirring songs.