Throughout her career, singer Shawn Colvin has meticulously studied her own life and then used it for songwriting fodder on her next batch of material. From insecurities and romantic dissolution to romantic bliss, her diary-like self-explorations become the illuminating truths for her listeners. Colvin, who was part of the "new folk" movement of the '80s and was embraced by the Lilith Fair generation, didn't get national acclaim until 1996, when Grammy voters took notice and made the dark scenario of "Sunny Came Home" (off A Few Small Repairs
) a winner for song and record of the year. Colvin added guest appearances on albums by Béla Fleck, Edwin McCain, James Taylor, and Shawn Mullins, and played some live dates, but she didn't strive to suck every ounce of attention from the awards. She also took on small roles in The Simpsons
and the film Heartbreakers
. She finally returned to the CD racks earlier this year with Whole New You
, an album that exposed the next chapter in her life: motherhood. Musically, it relates the lush familiarity of her past work, simultaneously polished and pointed, with the snap and crackle of each note placed alongside the next like a sonic puzzle. While her longtime fans will take to it, the album's strength is in the fact that it doesn't succumb to sappy platitudes in recounting the changes in her life. Colvin, who's talkative and affable onstage, remains as contemplative and observant as ever, once again making her inner world a universal one.