There’s often been a touch of twang in Sheryl Crow’s music, amid the pop, rock, and folk elements, but the singer-songwriter goes full-on country in her new release, Feels Like Home, with generally good results.
The 12-track effort, out today, finds Crow incorporating the styles of Merle Haggard, Patsy Cline, Bobbie Gentry, and more into the trademark mix that’s made and kept her a star: catchy tunes with well-crafted lyrics, accessible enough to be widely popular, artistic enough to win critical respect.
Crow, who has lived in Nashville for several years, cowrote most of the songs on Feels Like Home; longtime songwriting partner Jeff Trott is one of her collaborators, as are Nashville luminaries such as Chris DuBois, Chris Stapleton, and Brad Paisley. Paisley’s also among the instrumentalists on the album, and vocal contributors include country stars Zac Brown and Vince Gill.
Some of the tracks are upbeat (for when all you want to do is have some fun), others slow and a little somber (in case you feel like hell tonight). The best of the former include first single “Easy,” a salute to the simple pleasures of staycations, written with Trott, and “Crazy Ain’t Original,” with observations on reality TV and celebrity bad behavior: “You’re just a bigger star ’cause one bad mug shot makes you much more interesting.”
There are a fair number of good cry-in-your-beer songs, such as “Callin’ Me When I’m Lonely,” written by Rodney Clawson and Brent Anderson: “He’s at the front door now / With his magic smile / And he’ll be gone tomorrow / But right now he’s mine for a little while.” Another meditation on loneliness is the lovely, sad “Homesick,” which Crow penned with Stapleton and sings with Brown, noting, “I get homesick for anywhere but home … ’cause I miss you.”
“Stay at Home Mother” (envision the title as “stay at home, mother”) confronts the challenges of single parenthood — well, the life of any parent who has to leave their children for an extended period. It’s a situation Crow has experienced, as she adopted two children, now aged 4 and 6, after her breakup with Lance Armstrong. The song, she has said, has some commonalities with Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle.”
Other noteworthy tracks include the wry “Best of Times,” cataloging many bizarre facets of modern life, and “Homecoming Queen,” a reminder that for those who peaked in high school, life afterward is bound to be downhill — and those of us who didn’t peak then can take a little comfort from the song.
On the whole, as Crow revisits tried-and-true country themes like drinking and lost love, and explores some less familiar territory as well, she turns in a largely appealing effort. There’s an occasional misstep, like the verging-on-self-parody lyric “Thank God they make waterproof mascara / ’Cause it won’t run like his daddy did” in “Waterproof Mascara,” but overall the album makes for easy listening, in the best sense. Speaking of which, watch the video for “Easy” below, and find out more about the album, released by Warner Music Nashville, and Crow’s fall tour in support of it here.