Sheryl Crow's 1993 debut, Tuesday Night Music Club, was a bittersweet experience. While hits like "All I Wanna Do" pushed the album to seven-times-platinum status, Crow's friendships with the musicians she worked with — known as the Tuesday Night Music Club — fell apart amid allegations that Crow took too much credit. Epitomizing the animosity, TNMC producer Bill Bottrell called Crow "hopeless" and "obnoxious" in a 1996 Rolling Stone cover story.
So it was surprising that in August Crow dialed up Bottrell. "He said, 'I've been waiting years for this call,'" Crow says. "It was a sweet homecoming for the both of us." In a burst of creativity, they recorded twenty-four songs in forty days in the basement studio of Crow's Nashville-area home. The disc's fourteen tracks are among Crow's most personal, a fact she attributes to the adoption of her son, Wyatt, in 2007. "I couldn't write fast enough — having this tiny, innocent spirit made me fearless," she says. "I felt a sense of urgency to write about what's really happening." The album opens with the raw "God Bless This Mess," which addresses 9/11, when "the president spoke words of comfort with tears in his eyes/Then he led us as a nation into a war all based on lies." And a handful of cuts, such as "Diamond Ring" ("Diamond ring," Crow sings, "shouldn't change a thing/Fucks up everything"), seem to allude to her called-off engagement to Lance Armstrong. "All I can say is that I've been Âengaged three times," she says with a laugh. "So I have a thing about diamonds." Crow adds that the sultry R&B groove and lyrics of liberation on "Now That You're Gone" definitely don't address her ex. "That's not about Lance," she says. "I dedicate that one to Karl Rove."