Times may change, but Sheryl Crow is sticking with the tried and true.
The singer's disdain for some new trends—especially teen pop—is very obvious on her latest album, especially on the bitterly sarcastic “You're an Original,” which features harmonies courtesy of fellow retro rocker Lenny Kravitz.
Instead of letting those frustrations get the best of her, the singer settles into some solid, though far from revelatory mainstream rock, starting with the guitar-crunching ode to fast machines (“Steve McQueen”). She's got a hit on her hands with the breezy “Soak Up the Sun,” which sounds like a Beach Boys', driving-around-with the top down kind of summer single. And the title cut rides on a sturdy hook, a blend of acoustic guitars, accordion, and mandolins, and some guest vocals courtesy of Stevie Nicks, with whom Crow recorded and toured last year.
This actually could have been billed as a disc of duets, for Crow seems very willing to share the spotlight. Besides those already mentioned, the album also finds her singing with Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks on the guitar-sparkling, slide-tinged “Abilene,” Emmylou Harris on the deep blue ballad “Weather Channel,” and Don Henley on “It's So Easy,” the latter a country-flavored tale of infidelity that's got mainstream radio in mind.
Despite all that, there's a feeling that there's something missing here, with nothing near as resilient as what was heard on Crow's breakthrough 1993 album Tuesday Night Music Club or her most recent previous studio album, 1998's The Globe Sessions. For the record, it certainly is a whole lot better than most of the teen pop she loathes, but like one of the song titles on the new disc, it's “Safe and Sound” all the way. That makes for a mild disappointment from someone who's proven in the past to be far more passionate than she sounds on this set.