Sheryl Crow: Be Myself (Warner Bros)
Verdict: Breezily noncholant
When Missouri’s Sheryl Crow secured her big break with All I Wanna Do, she glorified a carefree lifestyle in which drinking beer at noon was the norm. With its laid-back guitar hooks and leisurely handclaps, the 1994 hit single was a breezy celebration of nonchalant good times.
She tries something similar on a new track called Roller Skate, on which she waxes lyrical about sunshine, mirror shades and face-to-face conversation in an age when people spend too much time bewitched by their mobile phones.
For Crow, 55, it’s a deliberate attempt to turn back the clock. With the collapse of her three-year relationship with disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong plus battles with breast cancer and a brain tumour, her life has been far from straightforward in the past decade. You can hardly blame her if all she wants to do is have some fun.
Sheryl Crow’s new album Be Myself revisits some of the more soulful influences that prevailed on 2010’s 100 Miles from Memphis. It’s not groundbreaking, but Crow delivers with aplomb
Her new album Be Myself came about after the former music teacher began listening to her old records on the school run.
She says she wanted to ‘investigate what made my early songs strike people as authentic’, and the upshot is an album that reconnects her with the rootsy pop of her 1993 debut Tuesday Night Music Club.
Crow is a talented songwriter, musician and producer, but the onus here is on her attitude and a voice that gets to the point without showboating.
Eschewing the country leanings of 2013’s Feels Like Home, she revisits some of the more soulful influences that prevailed on 2010’s 100 Miles From Memphis, with Texan R&B guitarist Gary Clark Jr. impressive on Halfway There. It’s not groundbreaking, but Crow delivers with aplomb.
There are a few middle-aged grumbles. Alone In The Dark laments the intrusive nature of modern technology and the title track bemoans today’s selfie culture — ‘hanging with the hipsters is a lot of hard work’ — but Crow’s observations are generally witty and warm.
She’s happy to play the concerned mum on Woo Woo, which examines sexualisation in the entertainment industry, but is at her most convincing on songs such as Long Way Back, a Stonesy rocker about showing courage in adversity.
She uses the past as a springboard, but Sheryl is again looking forward.
Texas: Jump on Board (BMG)
Verdict: Elegant return
Glaswegian rockers Texas have ground to make up, too. They rose to arena status with 1997’s White On Blonde, but lost impetus during an eight-year break after 2005’s Red Book.
Their fortunes since returning four years ago are beginning to mirror the moves made earlier in their career — a fondness for guitar-driven, Pretenders-style rock (2013’s The Conversation) followed by a shift towards slick, blue-eyed soul (new album Jump On Board).
The fortunes of Glaswegian rockers Texas are beginning to mirror the moves made earlier in their career — a fondness for guitar-driven, Pretenders-style rock, followed by a shift towards slick, blue-eyed soul
Like fellow Scots Primal Scream, they can lean too obviously on their influences. Showing off your superior taste in music is one thing, but adding originality is another matter, and some of the references here are easy to spot: George McCrae’s Rock Your Baby on Let’s Work It Out; The Angels’ My Boyfriend’s Back on Great Romances.
But their creative axis reiterates its enduring class. Sharleen Spiteri is a charismatic frontwoman whose voice has acquired depth with age.
Her co-writer, Johnny McElhone, has been an understated, but significant presence in British pop since he joined Altered Images in 1979. It Was Up To You is clipped and funky. For Everything is an elegant pop-soul number. There’s even a glance back to debut album Southside in the Ry Cooder-ish guitars of Sending A Message.
- Both albums are out today. Sheryl Crow plays Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, on May 19 (gigsandtours.com). Texas start a UK tour on September 11 at St David’s Hall, Cardiff (livenation.co.uk).