Spin Control

February 17, 2008


Sheryl Crow, "Detours" (Heads Up) 3 stars
Sheryl Crow has long since reached the level of celebrity where her personal narrative is hard to separate from her artistic output; it's obligatory to note that in the two years since her last album "Wildflower," her romance with star cyclist Lance Armstrong foundered, she won a battle with breast cancer, she moved to the hills outside Nashville and she adopted a baby. But if you're expecting any of these so-called "Detours" to yield profound emotional insights on her sixth album, you don't understand the fundamental appeal of the 46-year-old lite-rocker: Her lyrics are about as profound as the average fortune cookie, but damn, she rarely fails to deliver a heap o' hooks ideally suited to her husky, barroom-at-closing time voice.

I say rarely because "Wildflower" was a dreadful disappointment in this regard -- a soggy, sullen bore that eschewed soaking up the sun and having some fun in an attempt to make capital-A "Art." Crow has still got Big, Serious Thoughts on her mind here. But she has reunited with producer Bill Bottrell, her collaborator on 1993's career-defining "Tuesday Night Music Club," and whether she's addressing America's political woes ("God Bless This Mess"), environmental catastrophes past and future ("Love is Free" and "Gasoline"), her aforementioned health woes ("Make It Go Away [Radiation Song]") or that rotten bum Lance ("Diamond Ring" and "Now That You're Gone"), she remains relentlessly and almost convincingly glass-half-full optimistic. And that fits her guilty pop pleasures just fine.