CD REVIEW – 2014
FEELS LIKE HOME (Warner.)
SHERYL CROW PECKS PLASTIC PEERS
“Crazy ain't original these days/ the world was going half-crazy anyway/ anything you can think of, it's all been done before/ crazy ain't original no more/ checking in and out and in and out of rehab/ it ain't quite the shame it used to be/ well you're dressed to be the star 'cause one bad/ mug shot makes you much more interesting.” - Crazy Ain't Original - Sheryl Crow-Al Anderson-Leslie Satcher.
When Missouri born singing actor Sheryl Crow moved from the shadows of Hollyweird to a 150 acre farm at College Green in Middle Tennessee she reflected on the follies of precious peers with a parody propelled pen.
Tabloid TV turkeys may be perceived as a soft target by cynics but Crow, now 52 and mother of an adopted son, earned country cred in her transition from pop with a little help from Music City collaborators.
So it's no surprise on her ninth album she nailed some sacred bovines to the crass cross of commercialism with more than a dash of devastating accuracy.
Cynics might opine the country-pop mainstream radio moat was long ago leaped by poppies keen to extend their longevity in a fly by fad genre.
But this is no seismic shift by Crow - she joined with Texan Miranda Lambert and octogenarian Loretta Lynn on their Coal-Miner's Daughter tribute disc and title track video clip back in 2010
She also featured on a Johnny Cash tribute album after cutting her pop/rock album 100 Miles From Memphis that propelled total sales beyond 50 million.
And this time around her Crazy Ain't Original satire had new puppets on the block such as Justin Bieber, Amy Winehouse and a bunch of Aussie swimmers and actors for fodder.
Crow wrote the song with former NRBQ icon Al Anderson and Paris, Texas, troubadour Leslie Satcher but former California convict and septuagenarian star Merle Haggard gave it wings.
Sheryl sowed her seed after being inspired by Merle following the Kennedy Centre Honors ceremony where he was honored in 2010.
There's a touch of the late, great Waylon Jennings and fellow Texans Charlie Robison and Ray Wylie Hubbard in her social comment swagger.
Crow produced the disc with Justin Niebank but also thanks West Virginia mentor Brad Paisley, renowned for his satiric song Celebrity from 2003, in her liner notes.
The singer kicks off with riveting road requiem Shotgun , penned with Chris Dubois, Kelley Lovelace and John Shanks, and featuring the chorus “gonna drive like it's stolen/ park it like it's rented.”
It segues into first single Easy with its whimsical yearning for croquet, margaritas and a day at home with a lover, listening to Jack Johnson, rather than a tedious trip south of the border to Cancun.
The singer pays homage to Emmylou Harris-late Gram Parsons vocal bliss in Give It To Me with Pistol Annie Ashley Monroe and her producer Vince Gill providing the harmonies.
She name checks Texan Johnny Bush's classic Whiskey River in her mid-week booze ballad We Ought To Be Drinking that starts on a Wednesday before Rodney Clawson and Brent Anderson opt for Friday night for the lovelorn lava of Callin' Me When I'm Lonely.
“Thank God they make waterproof mascara/ cause it won't run like his daddy did.” - Waterproof Mascara - Sheryl Crow-Chris Dubois-Brad Paisley.
Exactly how much it echoes the tabloid traumas inflicted by her brief engagement to Texan trick cyclist Lance Armstrong and relationships with Texan actor Owen Wilson and Eric Clapton bubble deep in the psyche of the narrator.
For the record Crow and Armstrong announced their engagement in September 2005 but separated in February 2006.
Shortly after the split she had successful surgery for breast cancer in Los Angeles, followed by radiation therapy.
In November 2011 Crow discovered that she has a meningioma - a type of brain tumor that is usually benign.
She doesn't discuss current or past relationships in interviews but is not averse to enriching her songs with therapeutic relief.
“I do not enjoy the public scrutiny that goes along with being a successful recording artist," she said in a 2008 interview.
"I didn't ever get into being a recording artist or songwriter because I wanted to be famous. I wanted to be like what I saw in Rolling Stone magazine - the black-and-white pictures of Joni Mitchell and Linda Ronstadt and people I loved and really admired. It's really changed since then."
She doesn't read most magazines, so she happily lives "in a fog" about what other entertainers are doing.
"In the lowest moment of my life - and I've probably not been on the A-list of celebrity like some of the really big celebrity names in all of those magazines - I couldn't leave my house in L.A. because of the paparazzi, I mean, everywhere," says the singer who appeared in the movies Fairway to Heaven, 54 and The Minus Man .
“To me, that really spoke volumes about what it is we're feeding ourselves, what it is we're feeding our psyches. If it is that we desire to see people at their lowest moment in life, and that is what is going to sell magazines, then clearly moving to Nashville was the perfect move for me, because I cannot support that.
"It demeans our spirit and takes up a large part of our brains and consciousness that could be used on so many better things as far as our own emotional, intellectual and spiritual state. I don't like the feeling of rejoicing when somebody has cellulite. It's really mean-spirited, and we shouldn't want it that way."
Although some of her boyfriends have been famous, Crow says she experiences the same turbulence as anyone else in a relationship.
"I went out with Lance Armstrong, who was high-profile and all, and it could have been anybody and it would have been the same thing to me," she says, talking about the end of their five-month engagement.
"Anybody that I loved, having gone through that, it would have been hard," added the singer who also appeared in TV shows diverse as Cop Rock, One Tree Hill, 30 Rock, Hannah Montana and Cougar Town.
"It was only fascinating to people in the world because he was a high-profile figure, but to me, love is love. I don't care if it's with the president of the United States or with the guy who works at the grocery store."
“Yea too bad love ain't a local parade/ in your uncle's Corvette on a Saturday/ with all the little girls waiting on you to wave/ When you're 17, you don't know/ that you won't always be Homecoming queen.” - Homecoming Queen - Brandy Clark- Luke Laird-Shane McAnally.
Her great-grandfather was also Congressman Charles A. Crow (1873–1938).
Although the singer - one of four children - was a majorette, paper doll queen and all state school track athlete before becoming a Bachelor Arts in music composition, performance, and education at the University of Missouri in Columbia she didn't write the song.
That fell to Nashville hit writers Brandy Clark, Luke Laird and Shane McAnally.
She closes her albums with two thought provoking tunes.
Best Of Times - also written with Al Anderson and Leslie Satcher, is the deepest socio-political statement, daubed with irony, on the album.
Her finale Stay At Home Mother is an evolution of sorts on an artistic and personal level - she shares her regret at being too busy working when her children were growing up,
Just like with Mascara , Crow would not have been able to pull this one off fifteen years ago.
Vocally, she would have had no problem - but making the track believable is always the hard part.
A similar story to Redneck Woman Gretchen Wilson when she recorded her seventh album title track Right On Time .
“It was written probably 15 years ago,” Wilson told me in an interview early this year.
“It was one of the first demos I did when I first came to Nashville in 1996. I don't know how that song never got cut - maybe because it takes an older woman to sing it. I don't think a girl in her 20s could pull that song off. When I sang demos for it I don't think I knew what I was singing about. You have to experience a lot of life before you can say it took a while to get here - right on time.”