POSTED ON AUGUST 18, 2010:
Sheryl Crow gets in touch with her roots, blues and soul
Big New World. Known for a rich and soulful voice that has primarily focused on pop and rock, Sheryl Crow recently stepped out with her first new studio album in two and a half years 100 Miles From Memphis.
When Sheryl Crow returns to the Brady Theater stage Tuesday, Aug. 24, you can expect the same amazing voice and stage presence to appear, but don't be mistaken into expecting what you've heard in the past.
Backed by her new band, The Thieves, Crow has revamped her sound and approach, reaching back to tap the soul and R&B sounds that soaked the radio airwaves of her youth, growing up in Kennett, Mo.
Known for a rich and soulful voice that has primarily focused on pop and rock, Crow recently stepped out with her first new studio album in two and a half years, 100 Miles From Memphis, a nod to not only her hometown but also the soul music that flowed so freely from Ardent Studios, Stax and Atlantic Records in Memphis in the '60s and early '70s.
The new disc seems a change of direction for Crow, a left turn of sorts. After a few listens, however, it becomes apparent that this is a natural progression for Crow -- or perhaps more accurately, a return to her roots and first love in music.
After all, Crow has always had a soulful undertone, the element that smoothed the edges of her songwriting and made her more than just another folkie or female rocker.
This is a record that's been a long time coming, Crow said, perhaps the one that's been waiting since the very beginning.
"This is something I've been thinking about for a long time," she said. "When (manager Scooter Weintraub) first started working with me 20 years ago, what he heard in me was that I had heavy influences from the south -- Bonnie and Delaney, all the Stax records -- so for years, he's been asking me 'When are you going to make that record?'"
Following the commemorative release of her debut disc, Tuesday Night Music Club, Crow found the perspective that led her to finally follow her muse and record the R&B laced album that been pent up in her so long.
At first, it is a left turn of sorts. "Our Love is Fading" opens the disc with an undeniable sax influenced soul groove. Elsewhere, lead single "Summer Song" isn't as obvious, channeling more of a '70s AM radio sound. Tracks like "Long Road Home" meet in the middle, however, blending the sound that Crow has been building throughout her career with a healthy dose of Curtis Mayfield and drawing the soul from her more than ever.
"Say What You Want" is a natural progression, complementing Crow's natural timbre and writing with horns and funky background vocals.
It's a progression that Crow has implemented to even her past work for the current tour. On recent TV appearances, including a week-long run on David Letterman, Crow has not only revealed her latest songs in a live setting but also re-imagined tracks like "Every Day is a Winding Road" to draw her soul and R&B roots to the forefront. While startling at first, it also feels natural as the background vocals are drawn to the forefront, and Crow shifts gears into a smoother, more soulful groove.
With not even two weeks of touring under her belt when she arrives in Tulsa Tuesday night, Crow has said that the new band has already started to find its footing and get comfortable enough to expand the arrangements even more with each show.
Surely, part of that is working with guitarist Doyle Bramhall II as defacto band leader, the man who has not only led a successful career on his own but played alongside Eric Clapton and was an essential partner in the writing and recording of the new disc.
Not only had Bramhall served as a friend and musician, his input and production helped Crow fulfill her vision with 100 Miles to Memphis. His presence and direction of the band has undoubtedly added to it quickly hitting its groove and allowing Crow to spread her wings even further on the live stage.
Songs such as "Run Baby Run," which has always been a show-stopper, are at risk of being overshadowed by newer material like "Stop" and "Sideways," which concurrently build upon Crow's vocal strength and draw even more out of her as she channels the soul and R&B influences that she's kept more confined up to this time.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the disc is a lights out rendition of "I Want You Back," which was written by Berry Gordy and The Corporation but is best known as a Jackson 5 track. Crow absolutely nails it on the CD and pays a respectful tribute to Jackson, whom she began her career with.
Ironically, the track was recorded on a whim when Marvin Gaye's "It's a Desperate Situation" led her naturally into "I Want You Back." When Bramhall and co-producer Justin Stanley heard her sing it, they insisted on cutting the track, and it was completed in one take.
"It wasn't a conscious choice to do an homage, but it ended up being a very bittersweet thing," she said. "Michael's death brought a lot of stuff back for me, so it was nice that we could include it."
No matter the circumstance, the track further cements the argument that this is a natural direction for Crow.
Undoubtedly, the continually evolving live show will further attest to that as Crow arrives at The Brady Theater Tuesday night.
Tickets are still available for $47.50, $57.50 and $67.50, and Graham Colton will open the show at 8pm.
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