Sheryl Crow is back to her old self after the fiasco that was 2005's Wildflower. By renewing her partnership with Bill Bottrell (who produced her first CD in 1993), she comes up with a selection of infectious pop tunes reminiscent of her earliest efforts. "Gasoline" and "Love Is Free?" have catchy hooks that grab the listener from the get-go and will certainly resonate during her live shows. It is not all happy times, though. By opening the disc with "God Bless This Mess," a country ballad recorded on a home tape recorder, Crow clearly wants to get your attention. The protest song is intended as a slap in the face of the Bush administration, which she blames for leading the country "into a war all based on lies" after the events of 9/11. She gets personal on "Diamond Ring," which reveals the reasons for her very public breakup with Lance Armstrong, and also on "Make It Go Away (The Radiation Song)," a heartfelt reflection on her recent bout with breast cancer. "Love Is All There Is" could have been co-written by George Harrison both the chorus and the guitar riffs remind us of the late Beatle's solo work, and it sounds like a personal tribute to his influence in her work. Listen also to the hauntingly beautiful "Lullaby For Wyatt," a tune she wrote for her adopted son with the realization of the temporary nature of things in mind. By singing "you are mine for a time," she is aware that some day he will grow and begin to live his own life; as someone who has bounced back from heartbreak more than once in her life, she clearly understands the meaning of letting go.
Tue., Oct. 21, 7 p.m., 2008