Sheryl Crow's new confessional.
* * *
If anyone knows the meaning of the John Lennon adage,
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans," it's Sheryl Crow.
Between 2005's "Wildflower" and her latest, "Detours," the 45-year-old singer-songwriter and nine-time Grammy Award winner battled breast cancer, adopted a child and saw her well-publicized engagement to Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong fall to pieces. Crow's sixth studio album is thematically twofold, the first half a soapbox that would make the Dixie Chicks envious and the latter half an all-out confessional.
While most of her protest songs, melody-wise (not conscience-wise, mind you), sound more radio-friendly than in-your-face rabble-rousers with their hard-to-get-out-of-your-head choruses, Crow makes up for any missteps in the album's intimate, unguarded second half.
On the folk-flavored protest song "God Bless This Mess," Crow takes a silly wall hanging made popular in modest, middle-class homes and transforms it into a scathing social commentary on what she perceives as the nation's sorry state of affairs. In one powerful verse, she evokes the image of the collapsing Twin Towers and chastises George Dubya - "The president spoke words of comfort with teardrops in his eyes/Then, he led us as a nation into a war all based on lies."
Accompanied by chimy acoustic guitars and booming drums, Crow attacks blind patriotism and bloated bank accounts on "Shine Over Babylon." Trying to put Americans who have lost their way back on the path of righteousness, Crow sings, "Freedom etched on sacred pillars/Hallow stories of mindless filler/Can lead to madman oil drillers/Won't be long before we are all killers."
Crow tries to muster up her inner John Lennon on the Middle-Eastern-tinged "Peace Be Upon Us." Crow's enticing, intoxicating vocals deliver the simple, sing-songy mantra of the title while Ahmed Al Hirmi sings in Arabic.
On "Gasoline" - Crow's musical flash-forward to the not-so-distant future - it's not only the pipeline that's running dry here, it's her narrative. Creatively running on empty and sounding like she's sniffed too many petrol fumes, Crow delivers the flimsy call to arms "Gasoline/Will be free, will be free/Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" to a Stonesy guitar strut. Yikes! Yikes! Yikes!
The album's two best songs (and quite possibly two of the best songs of the artist's career) deal with arguably the most difficult ordeals Crow has ever faced: her breakup with Armstrong and her battle with breast cancer.
Mournful pedal steel guitar accents Crow's guilt-ridden musings and unresolved feelings surrounding her ex-fiance on "Diamond Ring." Sounding like she's on the verge of tears and, an emotionally crushed Crow cries out, "Diamond ring/Diamond ring/(expletive) up everything/Diamond ring/Diamond ring/Should not mean a thing." Powerful stuff.
On the riveting "Make It Go Away (Radiation Song)," Crow relives her breast cancer diagnosis and radiation treatments. Showing kinship with Aimee Mann, Crow digs deep and drops her defenses, which results in bringing the listener uncomfortably close to the ordeal. When she painfully prays to the darkness, "Make it go away" (which is accompanied by dissonant electric guitars), it's enough to send shivers down one's spine.
Her maternal, nurturing spirit takes center stage on the album's closer, "Lullaby for Wyatt," a loving ode to her adopted son. Although Wyatt is only an infant, Crow angelically coos, "Love is letting go/And this I'll know/is you were mine/For a time." Delicate and beautiful, the song pulls at the heartstrings without snapping at the heels of schmaltz.
CUTLINE: Sheryl Crow
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Feb 17, 2008|
|Previous Article:||Opera Works' next sounds `Mozart-ian'.|
|Next Article:||In Southbridge, the Hop Vine Cafe is already starting to inspire patrons.|
|Something to Crow about.|