Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sheryl Crow: Detours-Best Album of 2008!

Sheryl Crow, "Detours"
Sheryl Crow's new album Detours is by far the best new album I've bought this year. Okay, so it's also the ONLY new album I've bought this year. That qualification aside, it's a darn good piece of work. I first got into Sheryl Crow around the time Wildflower came out in late 2005. Wildflower is a great album, but it's very different from Detours. All the songs on Wildflower flow together and have a similar vibe running through them, it's almost a concept album. There are no typical Sheryl Crow rockers to be found on it, which could be why it's her lowest-selling studio album. Since Wildflower's release, Crow's life has seen significant changes. Shortly after Wildflower came out, she broke up with Lance Armstrong, underwent successful treatment for breast cancer, and adopted a baby boy, Wyatt. That's a lot to pack into the span of little more than a year! The sharp contrast in Crow's life between the two albums is pointed out by the dedications. Wildflower is dedicated "To Lance with deep love and appreciation. This record is for you." Detours' dedication reads: "This album is for Wyatt Steven."

Detours finds Crow working with a varied sonic palette to create an album with many different kinds of songs on it. It starts out with "God Bless This Mess," which sounds like a home recording of just Sheryl and her guitar, with pointed political lyrics about a President who "led us as a nation into a war all based on lies." Then the heavy drums of "Shine Over Babylon" kick in, and we're back on more familar pop/rock turf. Which in turn leads seamlessly into the count-in of "Love is Free," a catchy sing-along whose lyrics reference hurriance Katrina. "Love is Free" is one of the few songs on the album that sound like a "typical" Sheryl Crow song. She's expanding her range here, and she hits the mark. "Peace Be Upon Us" is one of the songs that shows Crow's desire to create some different sounds, as it mixes in Middle Eastern harmonies and vocals. "Gasoline" is an out-and-out rocker, with the inspiring chours of, "gasoline will be free." I'm not sure I can quite make sense of Sheryl's tale of an energy crisis in the year 2017, but I do like free gas. "Out of Our Heads," despite sharing it's title with a 1965 Rolling Stones album, is another plea for understanding among the people of the world, similar to "Peace Be Upon Us." Sheryl's voice sounds totally different on "Out of Our Heads," if I heard it on the radio, I wouldn't be able to tell you it was her singing.

And thus ends the "political" side of the record, now for the "personal." "Detours" is the next song, a soft tale in which the narrator asks her mother for advice on love, and she speaks of her "paper-thin heart." (More explicit personal songs will follow.) "Now That You're Gone" is one of the highlights of the record for me. It's a gorgeous soul song, about love gone wrong, filled with tasty string fills straight from 70's soul heaven. Again, it shows Crow pursuing a different sound, and I like it. It's followed by "Drunk with the Thought of You," a soft acoustic ballad about infatuation from afar. It's a nice little trifle, and it the positioning of it is perfect, as it's followed by a heartbreaking break-up song. "Diamond Ring" is a scorching, painful, John Lennon-in-his-primal-scream-period song that is plainly about Crow's broken engagement to Lance Armstrong. In my opinion, Lance Armstrong is one of the biggest idiots ever. He could have married Sheryl Crow, a beautiful, talented, sensitive, and intelligent woman, and he blew her off so he could fool around with one of the Olsen twins. There just aren't words for that level of stupidity. He deserves this song. (Okay, so maybe I'm a little biased cause I have a crush on Sheryl. Is that so wrong? I don't think so.) "Diamond Ring" begins with happy lovers, but Sheryl says, "I blew up our love nest, by making one little request." As the song builds in intensity, Sheryl wishes Lance an unhappy future, "Someday you'll be like me, with someone who just wants to be free." Sheryl screams the chorus until she's hoarse, singing, "Diamond ring, fucks up everything." The next song, "Motivation," is an uptempo ditty making fun of those who think the world will simply give them what they want because they're young and pretty. "Well I dropped out of school when I was seventeen, cause I didn't have time to study my magazines," she sings, in character. The satirical "Motivation" serves as an important placeholder between the intensly personal "Diamond Ring" and "Make It Go Away (Radiation Song)" about Sheryl's breast cancer treatment. It's a spare, haunting song about facing mortality. "Love Is All There Is" has a classic Sheryl Crow sound, with a great sing-along chorus. It's followed by "Lullaby for Wyatt," the last song on the album, another beautiful highly personal song, which finds Sheryl musing about what it means to be a mother, and coming to the conclusion, "Love is letting go."

So that's the album, a great mix of personal and political songs that is relevant to our world situation in 2008, and also explores timeless themes of love lost and found. Crow is a great songwriter, and all the songs on Detours are first-rate, there's no filler here. It has a lot of different styles and moods on it, which I like. It's versatile, and I always enjoy someone who isn't afraid to be versatile. I think what I like about Sheryl Crow is the mix of confidence and vulnerability in her. My favorite songs on the album are: "God Bless This Mess," (as a native Minnesotan, I particularily like the narrative detail of "Mamma's in the kitchen, making casseroles for all.") "Love is Free," "Out of Our Heads," "Now That You're Gone," "Diamond Ring," "Make It Go Away (Radiation Song)," "Love Is All There Is," and "Lullaby for Wyatt." Okay, so that's more than half the album! Did I mention I think this is a great CD? Go buy it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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