Sheryl Crow - Detours

On her sixth studio album Detours, Sheryl Crow tackles both the personal and political. No big change there, although with its reliance on producer Bill Bottrell, who steered Crow's nineties debut Tuesday Night Music Club to Grammy glory, a back-to-basics approach is promised. She was criticized for her past two albums, which substituted 'basics' for 'bland', and the new album is perfectly listenable without really fulfiilling a promise of new musical horizons.

Perhaps the political angle has been played up here more than on other records, but the years that have passed since 9/11 explain the place of retrospective opener God Bless This Mess. Stark and without gloss, this and songs like Make It Go Away benefit from the simple approach. Crow obviously still has a soft spot for radio-happy pop songs, Love is Free marrying a clunky sentiment with Jack Johnson carefree optimism while somehow, incredulously, managing to charm. Similarly, the paint-by-numbers chorus of Out of Our Heads seems to be aimed at pre-schoolers but you'll be humming it to yourself after two listens. These two obvious singles are featured early on alongside songs that are predominantly political and either hit the spot or crash into the ground: the Arabic-tinged Peace Be Upon Us is ill-advised but Gasoline, which sounds like it's going to be a slog to sit through, is great, injecting humour into an upbeat track that paints a near-apocalyptic year 2017.

The level of inconsistency is even more apparent during Detour's middle section, where the love-gone-wrong songs come out to play. While Now That You're Gone perfectly showcases the undying soul in Crow's voice, the lyrics to these songs, which inevitably detail the breakdown of her relationship with Lance Armstrong, contribute to a general sense of Crow wallowing and feeling sorry for herself. Granted, she is allowed to dwell on the aforementioned Make It Go Away, where the focus is on her struggle with breast cancer, and should be applauded for following this with an unapologetic pop moment in the big-chorused and big-hearted Love Is All There Is. Despite containing the lyric, 'The world could fall apart/But you're my heart, my dear', Crow's tribute to her son, Lullaby for Wyatt, avoids being sickly by opting for a bittersweet deconstruction of the mother/offspring relationship. It closes the album with class, as God Bless This Mess opened it, making it all the more frustrating that Crow chose to walk the middle of the road during the middle of her supposed 'detour'.



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