Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
The list of artists who want to have gone country shows no signs of letting up. After the inclusion of everyone from Kid Rock (guess who sang on his Picture
?) to Jimmy Buffett comes rootsy rocker Sheryl Crow, whose jump to what passes for country these days in the mainstream market pretty much makes her a first cousin and isn't all that far fetched.
But Crow is more country influenced than an outright country disc. Crow, who co-produced with Justin Niebank, sprinkles the songs with pedal steel and banjo here and there, but this represents no radical departure for Crow. The bright, lively Crow comes to the fore often - Drinking, one of a number of radio ready songs with an easy going style that gives her voice the chance to shine.
Crow starts off strongly with Shotgun where her voice is forceful and bold. While the song is more of a rocker - one of the few outright rockers on the disc - she also employs a healthy dose of banjo. Being that she recorded what is a modern country disc in Nashville, Crow opts for the smoother sounds emanating out of Music City these years. Give It To Me is a tad too smooth vocally with strings punctuating the song as Crow picks it up vocally. Waterproof Mascara, written in part with Brad Paisley about a single mother, with strings again prominent underscores the tender factor with Crow turning in a heartfelt delivery on a Sixties styled country song. When Crow gets tougher vocally just before the bridge at the mid-way point, she sounds more at home. Best of Times finds Crow veering more uptempo and far bigger sounding vocally. Catchy and forceful, it's one of the best songs here.
Calling Me When I'm Lonely sounds more like something in Shania Twain's wheelhouse with Crow employing pedal steel to give the song a country feel. Crow shows a different side, by going soft and tender on Homecoming Queen where she gets reflective about a girl who looked like "royalty/the girl we all wanted to be" before settling.
Crow doesn't win any plaudits for penning Easy, the first single and seemingly a throwaway where she sings "we'll put on bug spray/and we'll lose our clothes" and "we'll put on Jack Johnson/He's the new Don Ho." The lyrics may not win plaudits, but it's in keeping with the faster, easy going vibe. She does a whole lot better on Crazy Ain't Original with the sharp line "what everybody used to call a freak show/Well now we call reality TV" and the closing Stay At Home Mother.
Crow thinks the title describes where she's at when it comes to recording in Nashville, and she well may be right. After all, "going country" is not such a bad thing these days and in the hands of Crow, at least she stays close to her musical vision, and that's a good thing.