It’s no surprise Sheryl Crow has grown into such a classic-rock sage – even when she was coming up in the Nineties, she relished the role of a grizzled road warrior who sang about still getting stoned and scraping mold off the bread. Her excellent new Be Myself is her toughest and best in a decade, a full-blown return to her fierce rock-queen glory. She aims directly at the torn-and-frayed guitar groove of her Nineties records, but with flourishes of her recent detours into Memphis soul and Nashville country.
Crow flashes her nasty streak in the highlight “Heartbeat Away,” where her bluesy guitar sounds as pissed off as her voice – she rages against crooks who steal both elections (“Russia’s blowing up the phone”) and loot, snarling, “Ain’t no silver in the bank vaults/There’s just paper where the money used to be.” Her winding road takes her through lovelorn laments (“Strangers Again”) and yoga-mama romance (“Rest of Me”). Crow’s a grown-up with doubts about all this clicking the kids are into – one of the kickiest pop gems here has the chorus, “Put your phone away, let’s roller skate.” Yet Be Myself has a well-tooled sheen, crafted with her old-time comrades Jeff Trott and Tchad Blake; “Halfway There” choogles like a weird lost collabo between the Cars and Al Green. She sounds mournful when sings “anger makes the world go round” – yet that angry edge helps keep Crow burning bright in dark times.