It's been years since Shawn Colvin released a new album or went on a national tour. But she had a good excuse. She's been concentrating on...

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It’s been years since Shawn Colvin released a new album or went on a national tour. But she had a good excuse.

She’s been concentrating on being a single mom to her 8-year-old daughter, Caledonia. She’s also been on somewhat of a crusade, delivering the message that depression is a treatable illness. In 2004, she went on a speaking tour for the pharmaceutical firm that makes Wellbutrin, a drug she says saved her life.

Colvin has always been up-front, in her songs and in her life, about her demons, including alcoholism, depression, anorexia and two divorces.

On her new album, “These Four Walls” — another impressive collection that displays her gift for storytelling, her disarming honesty and sharp sense of humor — there’s an autobiographical song called “Tuff Kid” that’s a clue to where it all began. Her angelic voice and acoustic guitar-driven, sweet music make you think it’s a cute tale of a troublesome tomboy. But then the lyric tells of physical punishment, the kind that leaves permanent psychological scars.

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Colvin’s most famous song, “Sunny Came Home,” which won Grammys for record and song of the year in 1998 and made her a star, had a similar catch. The tale of a woman wronged (Colvin wrote it after a bitter divorce), it sounds bright and breezy. Until the woman in the song burns the house down. Literally.

Other songs on the new disc deal with turning 50. Colvin examines her current role as a mother, looks back at her life and forward to a promising future. In addition to her 11 new songs (co-written with her longtime producer, John Leventhal), she also covers Paul Westerberg’s “Even Here We Are” and the Bee Gees’ “Words.”

For all the serious subjects she tackles in song, Colvin is a delight in concert. Most of her songs are upbeat, carried by light, folklike melodies. She has a delicious sense of humor that goes beyond the usual light patter of folkie singer-songwriters. Colvin can make you laugh so you forget your troubles, and hers.

Concert preview


Shawn Colvin, 8 p.m. Monday, Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., Seattle; $23.50-$33.50 (206-628-0888 or www.ticketmaster.com; information, 206-467-5510, www.themoore.com or www.shawncolvin.com).

Accompanying Colvin at her show here Monday at the Moore are guitarist Buddy Miller and percussionist Debra Dobkin.

Patrick MacDonald: 206-464-2312

or pmacdonald@seattletimes.com