Sheryl Crow: 100 Miles From Memphis

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Posted September 13, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

sherylcrow00Although her latest work doesn’t allow her access to a particular Memphis studio, the pop-country star has no problem recreating the Southern bluesy soul

With one foot seeped in roots rock and the other nestled in bluesy-inspired country pop, Sheryl Crow has proven to be one of the few female artists able to circumvent through the world of genres and styles to get her message and love of music across. Through it all, she knows what’s best and comfortable on her. When she was approached with the opportunity to pay homage to Memphis, her hometown being 100 miles away from the notable birthplace of rock ‘n roll and blues, on 100 Miles From Memphis, she seemed to have directly studied the ins and outs of the Sun and Stax classics, from its sassy horns to its raw production. Certainly one would even go so far to say that she maybe learned a lesson from Dusty Springfield’s blue-eyed soul masterpiece Dusty in Memphis album. For an album that wasn’t recorded in Memphis, unlike Dusty’s Southern pilgrimage, the magic of the album definitely equates the signatures of conventional Memphis-flavored blues and soul. In exchange for her country-pop musicality, she engages in a stronger suited organization including co-producers Doyle Bramhall II and Justin Stanley and the likes of Tommy Sims, Chris Bruce, Citizens Cope and even some gritter companionship from Keith Richards and to season up the sounds.

Much of the album surrounds Crow’s originals – juiced up with vibrant song structures and ‘60’s pop songcraft. On “Eye to Eye,” she latches on a delicious reggae swag anchored by Keith Richards’ guitar and a Stax-lubricated rhythm that doesn’t seem to lose its gusto, even after several listens. Terrence Trent D’Arby’s “Sing Your Name” is updated with a Al Green/Hi production posturing. With its timely organ “whoops” and that familiar “Love and Happiness” tempo, the song – along with Timberlake’s harmonies – appropriately takes a familiar tune into a more soulful environment while earning Crow some resounding accolades for her interpretative creativity. “Long Road Home” gets a country-gospel pallette using choir-like background harmonies. The song’s bittersweet lyrics are akin to “The Long and Winded Road” and other crossover hymns (“Sure as the wind blows/Sure as the rovers flow/We will meet again on the long road home”), but it gets its heartbeat and pulse from Marvin Gaye. “Summer Day” is adequately titled, with its warm melodies, tasteful string additions and her pop-laden vocals, and the mellow ballad “Stop” allows Crow to approach her musical familiarities without getting too sappy. Rounding out the project, Crow detours to Motown for a note-by-note remake of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”

It’s definitely a new area for Crow, now two decades into her professional career, but it’s definitely a road well worth taking. Soul markets will probably sleep on the release and even Crow’s following, probably looking for a Elvis treading, will eek at the nostalgic soul entry, but those in the middle will find Crow’s Memphis tribute to be one of her most satisfying laborious efforts.

J MATTHEW COBB

HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 020 Jul 2010
  • Label: A&M
  • Producers: Sheryl Crow, Doyle Bramhall II, Justin Stanley
  • Track Favs: Eye to Eye, Sign Your Name, Long Road Home, Stop

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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