Sheryl Crow

Wildflower

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Originally, Sheryl Crow planned to have her follow-up to 2002's Top Ten hit C'mon, C'mon be two simultaneously released albums, announcing their autumn release at the beginning of 2005, but by the time the fall rolled around, the project had been scaled back to a single album: Wildflower. If C'mon, C'mon was a cheerful, bright record ideal for sunny summer days, Wildflower is its opposite, a warm, introspective record that's tailored for the fall. It's not dissimilar to 1998's The Globe Sessions, which felt like a somber hangover to the wonderfully weird party of her eponymous 1996 second album, but where The Globe Sessions had a weary, heartbroken feel, there's a comfortable, lived-in atmosphere and sense of genuine affection on Wildflower. Celebrity press and pre-release hype attributed this love-mad vibe to Crow's romance with cyclist Lance Armstrong -- the couple announced its engagement the same month Wildflower was released -- and there surely must be some sort of correlation between Crow's personal life and work, but anybody looking for an album explicitly about her relationship with Lance (the way that, say, Eric Benet's Hurricane is all about his divorce from Halle Berry) will be disappointed. There are certainly plenty of songs about love here, but Crow's songs are not about specific events (unless they're neo-protest songs like the lively "Live It Up"). They're open-ended, so it's easy to hear the record and never think about Armstrong. As a matter of fact, the subjects of the songs matter less than the feel of the album. It's easy to spin Wildflower a couple of times before the songs start to sink in -- unlike her other records, there's nothing here that immediately grabs your attention, they're all growers -- but the mood of the record is immediately appealing. That sustained warm, burnished, relaxed feel -- at once rootsy and upscale, modest and classy -- is reason enough to return to Wildflower to give the songs a chance to take root, and once they do, the album seems to be one of her most consistent records and one of her best.

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