Crow was raised in Kennett, Miss., a small town approximately 100 miles from the hub of music, Memphis, Tenn. She decided to use horns, jazz pianos and the expertise of some of the biggest names in the music industry in this venture to return to her roots.
“100 Miles from Memphis,” while a great album, doesn’t have the mega hit status of the other albums Crow’s known internationally for. It’s no “Tuesday Night Music Club,” her debut which unveiled “Can’t Cry Anymore” and “All I Wanna Do,” nor is it on the same level as her self-titled EP, where her popular singles “Home” and “If it Makes You Happy” can be found. As a result, it will probably not receive the same notoriety.
But this new album is quite good in its own right, and its chart performances have been reflective of Crow’s songwriting and singing talent. “100 Miles from Memphis” was Billboard’s second highest debut, beginning at No.3 in the Top 200 category.
Crow opens the album strongly with “Our Love is Fading,” which sounds like it has the caliber of an old Crow hit. Although it can seem quite repetitive and overlong, it’s probably the best tune on the CD.
“Sign Your Name,” the first of Crow’s three cover songs, provides a new take on the 1980s Terence Trent D’Arby song. Memphis native Justin Timberlake provides the solo background vocals- a lucky addition, as he happened to be in the studio at the same time as Crow and was interested in collaborating. The pair’s bluesy voices intertwine to form a great R&B groove.
Crow also joins forces with Citizen Cope on his hit “Sideways,” a melancholy but pretty song about unrequited love. As the two artists have similar husky voices, it sounds very close to the original. But, instead of being just another cover, the addition of a woman singer brings another side of the story into the situation. Anyone listening to this will realize that this song was always meant to be a duet between the two artists.
The last of Crow’s famous cover songs is the wildly popular Jackson 5 smash “I Want You Back,” done as a tribute to the late Michael Jackson. This version is currently being used by ABC to promote their fall lineup.
It’s not a well-known fact, but Crow actually got her start in the music business as one of Michael Jackson’s main background singers during his 1987 “Bad” tour.
Dedicated to him- the liner notes read “To Michael with Love”- Crow sings the song with a high-pitched lilt not unlike Jackson’s. She probably would’ve done better had she chosen a different Jackson 5 song, but a decent try nonetheless.
“Summer Day” is the first single off the album, and hit No.2 on Billboard’s Adult Album Alternative chart. Her official website hails it as “simple and positive.” It’s one of those tunes you would sing along with for a lazy afternoon pick-me-up.
One of the other gems on “100 Miles from Memphis,” “Peaceful Feeling,” sounds like a throwback to the light-hearted Motown era. An instant mood-changer, “Peaceful Feeling” showcases Sheryl’s wonderful, husky voice.
Most of the other songs on “100 Miles from Memphis” are definitely worth a listen. Thanks to her songwriting talents, production team and guest appearances by Timberlake, Citizen Cope and Keith Richards, the album has done quite well. Though unlike her other records, this album is a testament to Crow’s talent- she can adapt her style, yet still produce hits.
In an interview with The Boston Globe, Crow confessed that, “It seemed like a great time to do something soulful and sexy and more driven by the music.” She definitely succeeded and it currently seems that in the music business, Crow can do no wrong.
Kate MacDonald can be reached at [email protected]