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Album Review: Sheryl Crow – 100 Miles From Memphis



For most of her career to date, singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow has toggled between earnest, gut-level vignettes and sunny pop-rock designed for the soccer mom set. So, to hear the Grammy winner swerve off the multi-platinum path that has served her so well, as she does on 100 Miles from Memphis, is a little startling: the equivalent of seeing your friend’s mom all dolled up for an evening out—and realizing she’s kinda hot.

Crow turns up the heat to a steady smolder throughout her seventh studio album, a disc produced by Crow, Doyle Bramhall II and Justin Stanley. 100 Miles from Memphis is steeped in languid, sultry white soul; her early collaboration with Justin Timberlake, “Sign Your Name,” will have steam pouring out of your speakers.

Although Crow’s tough, flinty vocals aren’t the best match for the lush, frequently funky sonic landscapes provided, neither does she embarrass herself. If anything, she often seems a bit adrift, not quite able to let her hair all the way down and fully embrace the earthiness inherent in this particular strain of American music.

Of course, she can’t quite completely let go of the upbeat, gently rocking style that brought her fame and awards. The gospel-tinged “Long Road Home,” in particular, could be an outtake from Detours or Wildflower.

This jaunt to Memphis isn’t without its bumps in the road: the less said about her stab at “I Want You Back,” intended as a homage to the late Michael Jackson, the better—some ideas are better left on the drawing board (seriously, her emulation of Jackson’s pre-pubescent pipes is creepy).

But then, if Crow can’t take risks now, when can she? Seemingly indifferent to commercial viability (street cred be damned, Crow even took to home shopping channel QVC to hawk advance copies of the album), 100 Miles from Memphis is a portrait of an artist messing with her image, regardless of consequence.

A little bit sultry, a little bit silly and not as cohesive as it should be, Memphisnevertheless demonstrates Crow is wholly comfortable in her own skin—whether anyone else likes it or not.

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