Sheryl Crow

Be Myself

(Warners)

An artist who never strays far from rock and roots music and selects musical cohorts who will act as catalyst figures in arranging and recording. And that’s not as a cold business decision – or she would have Chris Martin or Sheeran in – but a brave challenge to herself to take chances and keep things fresh.

The record is produced by Jeff Trott and Sheryl Crow, mix by Tchad Blake. Many of the lyrics here lean towards anger, betrayal, disgust, bemusement, unflattering comparison, cynicism, contempt..and that’s just the first three songs ! but these driving factors can make for impressive music. As they did for Frank Zappa, Nina Simone and many others, so fear not…

Alone In The Dark has the Crow mid-paced whack to the fore, a hint of Stonesey rhythm but with a Jackie de Shannon style bridge and chorus. As ever Crow’s vocals are crystal clear but her tone is somewhat creamier. She plays a lot of the instrumentation. The reedy harmonica is not credited. A guitar break by Audley Freed sits in the mix. A swamp rock tread brings in Halfway There and you almost expect Dr John to start singing. Guest guitar man Doyle Bramhall II curls in greasy figures that sing in the background. A clever song this, with cool background vocals and horn stabs and semitone chord shifts worthy of The Family Stone.

Long Way Back is slower but just as funky, the singing is glorious as Sheryl tells of making an effort to keep in the game. Trott’s guitar work bites hard. Be Myself seems to be a key number here, Crow advising that trying to stay hip can be strain in a world stuffed with hype and artefact. Something of the pacing reminds me of much-missed pal Robert Palmer. It’s upbeat and knowing and the electric sitar is a neat touch. On to Roller Skate which has a sly and percussion-stuffed beat and is a love song. Well, a lust song, if you insist. It rather evokes her first album and the catchy songs thereon.

Love Will Save The Day is dead slow, almost hesitant. Crow sings it straight, in an almost hymnal style, over Procol keyboards which surge through the shadowy setting. A David Rossi heartbeat string arrangement emphasises the Procol touch. Very lovely performance, here. Strangers Again has a bright tempo and should be sent to The Bangles straight away! That’s Crow on the wahwah, btw. Rest Of Me has Sheryl not letting her guard down completely on a Beatlesy skipping acoustic item. I feel for the guy!

Heartbeat Away has dirty beat and slowish tempo of the kind that John Lennon loved – ‘well the Devil’s in the details..as the details start to leak..’ she sings as Bramhall waits to slug in on this one, as he does about 3:05. Sounds like a set closer and band namecheck kinda number…

Grow Up’s sweet vocal disguises the bitterness of the lyric. This sounds like Crow’s Debbie Harry moment; Woo Woo tells of society’s ubiquitous sexualisation on all strata and age groups, all over a Saturday afternoon swingbeat tempo. Seems to be observation rather than an opinion thereon.

Catchy rootsy songs delivered with elan. The lead cut is the killer, I think. Oh and from a liner photo it must be Crow playing the harp here and there.

Pete Sargeant



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Sheryl Crow’s new studio album ‘Be Myself’ is out now on Warners. 

For artist and tour information, head across to http://www.sherylcrow.com/

Sheryl Crow