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Sheryl Crow - and The Collaborators

Is this the last album from Sheryl Crow?

There is no better way to promote your latest album, than to declare it might be your last! Sheryl Crow did this in pointing to her new release - the collaborative Threads - and wham her remarks were to go viral.

Crow actually made the statement some months ago when she told syndicated-radio host Kyle Meredith: “I made the decision in my head that the record that comes out next year will be my last full album and I’ll just start putting songs out.”

And when Threads was finally released, she stuck to her guns, explaining quite rationally that the record industry has changed in terms of how music is served and consumed.

She told Rolling Stone: “I’ve loved making albums, I’ve loved growing up with albums, [but] I don’t think people listen to albums as a full artistic statement anymore. They cherry pick and make their own playlists or you’ll only hear a song if it comes up on a playlist. For me to make a full artistic statement with a beginning and a middle and an end, and to put the emotion and the money and the time into it only to have it not be heard that way? It seems slightly futile.”

The 57-year-old singer-songwriter has long been admired by fellow artists and her plain-speaking logic on the technology revolution will only endear her to those in the industry.

There can be no better way to retire from album-making than to end by teaming up with some of the greatest modern artists – alive or dead! All 17 tracks on Threads feature other performers, whether as co-writers, backing musicians or collaborative vocalists.

And the most dynamic – the album’s lead single - features Crow putting her vocals alongside Johnny Cash on one of her compositions – “Redemption Day” – which was on Cash’s 2010 posthumous release American VI: Ain’t No Grave. “I had to sing it a lot of times to figure out how to make it work,” she told Rolling Stone.

Threads is certainly littered with big names. There’s Joe Walsh, Stevie Nicks, Eric Clapton, and Keith Richards from the pop-rock charts. The Americana brigade is headed by Emmylou Harris, along with Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Vince Gill, Mavis Staples and Brandi Carlile. And, among others, add legends Willie Nelson, James Taylor and Kris Kristofferson to the mix.

Four of the songs – “Livewire/ Cross Creek Road/ Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You/Nobody’s Perfect” – are co-written with Crow’s long-time collaborator, multi-instrumentalist Jeff Trott. The standout of the four happens to be “Nobody’s Perfect,” largely because the queen of harmony, Emmylou Harris, was chosen to accompany Crow on this soft and sweet number.

There are four songs which are pure covers – George Harrison’s “Beware of Darkness,” Bob Dylan’s “Everything is Broken,” Jagger and Richards’ “The Worst” and Kristofferson’s “Border Lord.”

Richards happens to join her on “The Worst” – a little-known Stones number from Voodoo Lounge – and the pair just hit every note. She told Rolling Stone that playing with Keith is like being invited to the party: “He played everything except for drums and Wurlitzer. I basically played the Wurlitzer, and Steve (Producer Steve Jordan) played drums, and Keith played everything else from the gut-string to the electric to the bass to that Floyd Kramer-sounding piano.”

Not only did Crow choose some of the biggest names in music for her “last” album, she has made an orchestrated effort to promote many of the tracks with not only separate releases but live duets with the chosen collaborator. A “must see” on You Tube is her teaming up with Jason Isbell to perform Dylan’s infectious “Everything is Broken” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. It was their first live performance of the track, but there are more live shows to come from this perfect-pairing!

One live duet you sadly won’t see is “Redemption Day.” Only in the afterlife!

Paul Cutler

Editor Crossroads - Americana Music Appreciation


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