Sheryl Crow

Artist's Choice: Sheryl Crow

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Contrary to what they sometimes claim, most major recording artists didn't acquire their musical personalities as a result of a cosmic accident or a supernatural visitation from the muse. Instead, they develop their craft by thoughtful and thorough sampling from various slices of earlier musical history. Some artists ultimately stop listening after they have created a musical identity they can run with, but others remain open to new influences. If you don't care for Sheryl Crow's own work, you may not be motivated to check out what she listens to (and is inspired by), but if you like what she does, you'll learn from this collection of 15 of her favorites that she is a real genre-hopper (soul, country, folk, rock) but is generally attracted to songs with strong, literate lyrics and interesting, sometimes unpredictable melodies. The tolerably old and terminally hip may find some of Crow's choices overly familiar, like Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," Aretha Franklin's "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)," Rod Stewart's "Maggie May," "Don't Dream It's Over" by Crowded House, "Talk of the Town" by the Pretenders, and so on. Still, these are all fine songs, and the mix-tape nature of the compilation allows new perspectives to emerge. For example, how many times have Dylan's lines about "walkin' down that long, lonesome highway" been followed immediately by Carole King complaining that "one more song about movin' along the highway/can't say much of anything that's new"? Touché, Carole. Or has Rod Stewart's plaintive, funky "Maggie May" been followed by the Band's surreal but equally funky "The Weight"? And if, by chance, you haven't heard any of these songs for one reason or another (e.g., too young, geographically isolated, subjected to an exclusive musical diet of Lawrence Welk reruns by cruel parents, etc.), then you will, perhaps, be prompted to dig a little deeper into the early work of the older artists and/or the music of brilliant but short-lived groups like the Pretenders and Crowded House. The program is rounded out by three contemporary pieces -- one each by Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams, and Crow's frequent songwriting collaborator Jeff Trott. Overall, Crow's choices serve as an accurate reflection of her own stature as a creative, eclectic, mainstream singer/songwriter who has done her homework and has the results to show for it.

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