When I was in middle school, I had a Sheryl Crow poster that looked like the cover of this tour book tacked up on my bedroom wall. It was a small bedroom, but I also found space for an American Beauty movie poster, plus that Pink Floyd naked painted-back ladies poster that everyone had. I was really into her. What can I say? I was pretty emotional. The year before, the two records I was really into were also female-dominated: Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill and No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom. The other record that I was obsessed with in that bedroom where I sang along to Sheryl Crow while I played Twisted Metal 2 on Playstation was The Verve’s Urban Hymns. You could say I was terrified of what the world held for me. I knew something was different about me and that my inclinations, lusts and obsessions weren’t typical in small-town Hudson Valley, New York.
The Crow album that was fresh at the time was The Globe Sessions. I was not yet 16 when “My Favorite Mistake” was the single, and she was smack dab in the middle of her 30s. There are some great tracks on it, a handful that you wouldn’t hear (completely) until you’ve listened to the whole LP, all the way to the end. But, listen, I’m totally biased—the record rules. There are tracks like “There Goes the Neighborhood,” “Riverwide,” and “It Don’t Hurt” in the first half that I truly believe are complex, honest, beautiful and artfully crafted. Then in the second half, there’s “The Difficult Kind” that introduces the stellar Bob Dylan cover, “Mississippi,” and then “Members Only” levels you with Americana wit and charm. Hey, give it a revisit. Tell me why I’m wrong.
Now, I also happen to believe that Tuesday Night Music Club (1993) and her self-titled sophomore (1996) are pretty much perfect as well. However, there’ve been some misguided decisions as of late. By that, I mean just about everything she did between 1998 and Detours about a decade later has been rubbish. Just about. Today, we have a new Crow record, Feels Like Home, and, thankfully, it is not absolute garbage. In fact, I’m not disappointed in it—or her—whatsoever. She goes way more country than I’m typically comfortable with, but she’s always been a Missouri girl; now she’s just giving less of a shit. Perhaps in the earlier stages of her career, she knew that she had to find a middle ground and cater her sound to a radio and video-hungry populace. Obviously, now that she’s a 51-year-old woman who’s survived dickhead fiancee Lance Armstrong, breast cancer and a brain tumor, she’s running out of fucks to give. If she’s going to make records, it’s going to be on her terms and in the vein of where her creativity currently lies.
I’ve had a generally negative perspective on country music, at least as we understand the term. Of course, I love Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Emmylou Harris and even, yes, Garth Brooks and Shania Twain. I’ll even listen to those little country pop queens belt out their simple hits; I’m talkin’ about the likes of Carrie Underwood or Miranda Lambert or Pistol Annies. Plus, naturally, this is exclusive of all of the lady singers, who I generally revere as the highest priestesses of feelings and anger, such as Neko Case or Lucinda Williams. This is all to say that it’s a real pleasure to see Crow working with modern country luminaries like Vince Gill, Brad Paisley and Zac Brown. And in doing so, spiking modern country pop with a little artistry, class, smarts and depth.
Listen, if you hate her, there’s no convincing from me that’ll sway you to my side. And as long as we learn to forgive her for her flops, it sure feels good to celebrate her peaks. And as the sun blazes down in the last few days of any summer feelings, you just might be able to appreciate her sittin’-in-the-sun-drinkin’-beer ditty, to the tune of “We Oughta Be Drinkin’” or the maudlin sadness of “Waterproof Mascara.” Give The Globe Sessions a spin, too. It’s a dare.