Sheryl Crow is nothing if not versatile: A former Michael Jackson backup singer who mixes pop, country, R&B and classic rock, she's built a career as an outspoken singer-songwriter and a Grammy-friendly go-to collaborator. Her eighth LP digs deeper into country tradition than she's ever gone before. The results are uneven, but never feel forced or faked. The ultimate stylistic diplomat, Crow makes every twang her own. It helps to have major Nashville songwriting firepower: Luke Laird, Brad Paisley, Shane McAnally and Chris DuBois help Crow serve a half-century's worth of styles without sounding like a history teacher. The lushly orchestrated, tear-jerking Paisley-co-write "Waterproof Mascara" and the Loretta Lynn/Bobbie Gentry-style "Drinking" (about getting "shitfaced" on a Wednesday night, instead of rolling "a big fat one and watchin' Nashville alone") update vintage countrypolitan and honky-tonk sounds. "Shotgun" and "Easy" are smart, airbrushed '00s mainstream contenders in the spirit of Miranda Lambert and country's tough new radio sweethearts. Crow still sounds most at home on the rockers – especially the steel-laced "Callin' Me When I'm Lonely" and the Bad Company bow "Nobody's Business." But this set suggests the Opry crowd might want to keep her on speed dial.
From The Archives Issue 1191: September 12, 2013