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Album review: Sheryl Crow's '100 Miles From Memphis'

Sheryl_crow_240_ Sheryl Crow’s seventh studio album is a summer skinny-dip into the retro-soul sound that has updated ’60s nostalgia for the post hip-hop generation. With a title invoking the distance between Crow’s Missouri hometown and the home of Elvis and Al Green, it’s more an exploration of the rhythm-and-blues diaspora than a straightforward re-creation of any particular Southern sound.

There’s a little Stax in the horns, a little Motown in the backing vocals, and quite a bit of Al Green and Willie Mitchell’s Hi Records simmer in the grooves producers Doyle Bramhall II and Justin Stanley cultivate. But Crow also throws in a reggae cut (with guitar from England’s favorite classic-rock rude boy, Keith Richards), a couple of nonspecifically political anthems that Ben Harper would have been happy to have written, and a duet with Citizen Cope on that blue-eyed soul slacker’s own “Sideways” that nicely taps into his heavy mellowness. Justin Timberlake also has a cameo, singing backup on a version of Terence Trent D’Arby's late-’80s seduction “Sign Your Name.”

This should all add up to an excellent outing, but Crow’s effort has problems. Nearly every song overstays its welcome; what may have felt like a bunch of great jams in the studio grows tedious over the course of 12 tracks. Crow sings with sensitivity throughout, but she just doesn’t have the fat tone that would have lifted the more up-tempo songs higher; best among those is “Long Road Home,” which goes more in a country direction. The bonus track that has her reprising the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” convincingly demonstrates the Michael-like tone that caused the late superstar to hire her as a backup singer long ago, but the goofy backing vocals leaves one longing for Jermaine and the other brothers.

Crow has said that she wanted to make a sexier album than “Detours,” which she recorded in the aftermath of both breast cancer and her breakup with cyclist Lance Armstrong. Indeed, “Memphis” works best when she brings the rhythm down and the focus in close. “Stop,” a Shelby Lynne-style showstopper, features one of her most expressive recent vocals, and the moody “Roses and Moonlight” tantalizingly hints at what Crow might have offered if she’d made a proper blues album instead of this one. Now that’s a genre that actually needs reviving. Crow might do a service to her fans, herself, and pop history by taking that dustier back road next time.

— Ann Powers

Sheryl Crow
“100 Miles From Memphis”
A&M
Two stars (Out of four)


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Comments () | Archives (10)

It really doesn't matter what anyone writes about Ms. Crow.
The CD was just released on itunes.
And I bought it.
Just like I've bought all of her other CD's.
And I will continue to buy her stuff.
We need more artist like her.

my idea of punishment is being held captive and forced to listen to anything more than two minutes of awful talented "singer". OMG she is dull at best and at worst inspiring....of making you want to slit your wrists.

I'm clapping my hands and groovin in my kitchen with a big smile on my face.
I dig it, way to go Sheryl!

Music for people that don't actually care about music. File next to Jack Johnson. Inexplicably popular and incredibly not talented.

O, Looky... the woman the corporation hired to play like a hip person!

So many BS creds...

Reminds me of the line from the old Frank Zappa song:

"Is that a real poncho, or a Sears poncho?"

SC = Sears poncho!

;-)

BTW - it's not her vapid bloodless music that bothers me, it's the playacting that she's some sort of rocker or blueslady...

Fantastic album.. great idea to explore her soul side more. Glad I bought it and didn't listen to elitists.

Hey - she's a fine pop musician, and that's not my beef...

What's elitist is for the corporations to market and package her as being a rocker or a blues player, when she's just a pop star... whose first album WE'LL NEVER HEAR... because the suits didn't like it... That's why that hired those writers for those weekly sessions that Crow attended and played along with to make the second album that was released as her FIRST album...

Now, they stick her on stage with Eric Clapton and Howling Wolf... essentually to strum along and sing back-up... and provide the illusion of street cred...

SUITS RULE!!!

yeeesh. everyone relax. this album isn't her best but it sure beats the other crap out there. my only complaint is that the album is more pop than soul. i love the songs "stop" and "sideways". if the album was more of that caliber it might have been a better album. but this album is different than her previous releases and i bought it when i heard it was a departure album for her. i like it. i don't have to slice and dice why and wonder if i am hip or not for liking sheryl. life is too short

I find it hard to believe that an emaciated cover girl who pals around with Jennfier Annsiton and Courtney Cox could be soulful, but,whatevuh you say. I'll probly stick with my old stash of Anita Baker, Chaka Kahn, Stephanie Mills and Mary J Blige CD's.

Omg! First of all, i would like to say i`m a huge sheryl crow fan...and this album was such a disappointment! It sounds nothing like her original music...it`s like an annoying background noise to me. I would give it like a 1 out of 10.


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