Sheryl Crow: 100 Miles from Memphis


RIYL: Shelby Lynne, Citizen Cope, Adele

To call 100 Miles from Memphis Sheryl Crow’s “soul” album would be a little misleading. It isn’t like the songwriter/songstress/Grammy favorite hasn’t always had something of a soulful streak running through her music. This latest effort just emphasizes that streak more explicitly than any of her previous albums. More importantly, it catches Crow (most of the time) in a playful, lighthearted mood. It’s a sharp turn from the heavy-handedness that’s made much of her last couple of albums a bit of a challenge to listen to, and it results in her best album in at least a decade.

Working with guitarist/producer Doyle Bramhall II, 100 Miles is a loose affair. In spirit and vibe, it’s the closest Crow has come to matching her charming 1993 debut, Tuesday Night Music Club. After focusing much of her material on personal and political issues for the past few years, it’s nice to hear her lighten up. The fact that she has lightened up a bit also makes the songs where she does turn serious (like the political “Say What You Want”) a lot easier to take.

The Hammond B-3 organ gets a major workout on 100 Miles. Not surprising, given that the instrument was a hallmark of the Memphis soul that Crow references in the album’s title. “Eye to Eye,” a standout track, matches an Al Green-type sound with a reggae beat. “Stop” is Crow’s most affecting ballad in quite some time, and she scores with big-name collaborators like Citizen Cope (on a cover of his “Sideways”) and Memphis native Justin Timberlake (on the album’s most surprising track – an effective cover of Terence Trent D’Arby’s “Sign Your Name”). As a tip of the cap to one of the people who gave her a start in the music industry, she adds a faithful cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” to the end of the album. It’s casual, and Sheryl sounds like she had fun doing it – an apt way to close a record that’s one of the loosest (and best) of Crow’s career. (A&M Records 2010)

Sheryl Crow MySpace page

  

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