Sheryl Crow’s “100 Miles From Memphis” (2010) – The Weekend Review

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  1.5 / 5 stars

The sticker on the cover reads: “This album marks a long-awaited return by the 9x Grammy winner to the classic soul sounds that first drew her to making music.”

That may be, but the music she is making now — nearly two decades into her solo recording career — doesn’t hold a candle to the music she was making on her debut effort, never mind the albums that followed.

My criticism is not only that 100 Miles From Memphis has a decidedly retro sound, embracing the “classic soul sounds” for which Crow has such apparent respect.  And the record does have a pervasive retro quality, from the minimalist cover that conjures the vinyl pressings of the past to the background singers that sound like they were hand-picked from the 1950’s and 60’s.

No, my criticism falls upon what should be expected from a songwriter of Crow’s caliber.  Even within the general sound that she clearly had in mind, she could have found room to work creatively and intelligently.  Instead, many tracks, particularly in the first half of the album, suffer from vapid lyricism, the twice-too-long bug, and a serious case of the forgettables:  forgettable instrumentation, forgettable choruses, and even more forgettable background components, both vocals and horns.

The reason that Tuesday Night Music Club soared on the charts and sparked explosive sales (7x platinum and counting) is because it is an excellent album as a whole, composed of individually strong songs.  You must remember them: “Run Baby Run” with its rich reverb and allusive lyrics, “Leaving Las Vegas” replete with murky instrumentation and wonderfully ragged vocals, “All I Wanna Do” and all its various components — distinctive opening, great bass hooks, fun lyrics, catchy chorus, cool solo — that combine to make it one of the premier singles of the nineties (all three songs earn each moment of their respective five minute spans), and “Strong Enough” with sense enough to slow it down and take it acoustically for a while.

Oh, and I almost forgot “The Na-Na Song,” a track whose use of the na-na refrain is balanced by edgy, intelligent lyrics.

Read on for my “Na-Na Watch,” as well as my “Bawk Bawk Ba-bawk Alert.”

Sheryl Crow's "100 Miles From Memphis" (2010)

Sheryl Crow's "100 Miles From Memphis" (2010)

Now, I must go on record here that I do not — repeat NOT — subscribe to the “I wish Sheryl Crow still made music exactly like she did in the nineties” school of thought.

If you read through this album’s reviews on iTunes, you’ll find plenty of them.

I am, rather, a proponent of music that is clearly written in a given songwriter’s own style, whatever that may be at any given time.  If that style is a “return to roots” approach, then the resulting tracks should not simply be imitative of a time period or genre that sparks the songwriter’s interest.  This is the realm of the young artist, experimenting in covers to formulate his/her own style, or of the old and/or lost artist seeking to return to his/her precursors in order to get on a path that will lead to new endeavors.

And I certainly can’t get behind artists who only record acoustic covers and post them online for no profit.

Well, maybe I can get behind that.

The point is that 100 Miles From Memphis is composed of tracks that blend into a fairly homogeneous sound: of guitars, of vocals, etc.  The life in “Our Love is Fading” is lost after about three minutes — and that’s only half way through!  “Eye to Eye” could easily be mistaken for a lost B-side from some forgotten, unsuccessful Motown band.

Then there is “Summer Day,” an upbeat, single-worthy song that indulges in not only the sound of the sixties, but, surprisingly for an artist like Crow, the standard bow to chauvinism embraced in music of the time period, not to mention now.  She sings, “I just wanna be what you want me to.  That summer day changed it all; you came into my life, and you let me fall in love with you.”  The singer wants to conform, and is excited that someone “let” her fall in love?  To be fair, she most likely intends to capture the simplicity of early love, calling on the imagery of summer, but it is just one more reason to treat 100 Miles From Memphis with hesitation.

It should be noted that by “Summer Day,” a mere four songs into the record, there have been two songs that rely heavily on the “na-na” background vocals.

Just saying.

Elsewhere, Crow is concerned about politics and society.  The most obvious example of this is “Say What You Want,” a track on which she unfolds her concerns, yet seems to have confused actual indifference with her typical, at times tongue-in-cheek nonchalance.

There are some standout tracks.  “Peaceful Feeling” almost makes the cut, but for the “ba-ba” backgrounds that sound decidedly like her bandmates are mimicking chickens.  And she joins them before it’s over.  (If someone can formulate a way to listen to this track without hearing “bawk bawk ba-bawk”drowning out the other components, please let me know by commenting below.)

The redeeming songs on this album — and the reason I elevated my review from less than one star to one and a half — are tracks 8, 9, and 10.  “Stop” is perhaps the slowest song on the album, but the lyrics and emotion of her vocals converge and are aptly backed by subdued background vocals and instrumentation.  “Sideways” offers a standout Citizen Cope cover, featuring a beautiful duet with the man himself; the song stretches on a bit, but the length is largely managed by the progressive build-up of the arrangement.

The title track is the one song on the entire album that is imbued with not only a sense of Crow’s mastery of retro sounds but also the incorporation of her own songwriting style.  The background vocals are beautifully reminiscent of the best Motown has to offer.  The band sounds like a Motown studio band, yet they paint the corners with subtle, creative flecks of modernity.  And, above all, Crow’s lead vocal is crisp, a blend between gritty and silky that only she can pull off.

If all the songs on 100 Miles From Memphis were as engaging as “100 Miles From Memphis,” this review would have taken on an entirely different tone.  Indeed, this reviewer wouldn’t have spent so much time the past few days reminiscing about how truly outstanding some of her previous albums have been — Tuesday Night Music Club (1993), The Globe Sessions (1998), & Wildflower (2005).  And I certainly wouldn’t have spent so much time worried that Crow will never quite recapture her creative spirit.  (I’m not exactly having nightmares to the tune of the terrible C’mon C’mon (2002) and the hit-and-miss Detours (2008), but I’m not listening to those albums in the daytime, either.)

Bottom line: I’ll keep buying Crow’s albums, but after two decades, it appears she’s fallen back into the realm of having to prove her viability as an artist.

“Detours” (Sheryl Crow Cover)

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to the final day of “Title Track Week” here at ! This acoustic cover was inspired by the new rock music on Sheryl Crow’s February 2008 album Detours. The beauty of this week is that I don’t even need to mention what the song title is…

This was both a challenge, since Crow’s range is just a wee bit higher than mine, but also a lot of fun, since she is one of my favorite songwriters! I’m looking forward to hearing an unplugged version by her sometime in the future — maybe live in concert, as she’s one of the few artists still on my “must see” list. (I just crossed the Wallflowers off my list last month when I saw them at Foxwoods!).

To be honest, this isn’t even my favorite album of hers (that distinction probably goes to 2005’s Wildflower), but I’m a sucker for acoustic guitar music! And this is one of those albums that you can just imagine how the song must have originated as simple acoustic music, just a songwriter and her guitar.

Without further ado, here’s my video, and I hope you’ll come on back to for an all-new video blog from Jeff Copperthite tomorrow!

See you next session!

“Out of Our Heads” (Sheryl Crow Cover)

For Sheryl Crow Chords and Lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Jeff Copperthite:

Assistant Editor/site curator note: This post was originally from February 19, 2009.  The post doesn’t mention too many “historically inaccurate” information, but still always good to see where things were.  Enjoy this latest blast from the past!

Welcome to Thumpin’ Thursday for the first time in a couple of weeks.  Here’s a couple of updates for you.  My health is much better now after a shaky four days from Wednesday to Sunday last week.  The vacation is helping tremendously.  Also, i’ve hit 90K views, and I should hit the 6 digit mark in the near near future!

Tonight I have a brand new cover song for you.  It’s a song that I have yet to see anybody cover, or post the chords too.  The song is by Sheryl Crow, and it’s a single off her album “Detours”.  The song “Out of Our Heads” shares the title of a Rolling Stones’ album.  However, the song is drastically different.  It’s also very catchy, and unfortunately it’s hard to capture the catchiness in an acoustic cover.

The hardest part for me is the fact I had to figure this song out on my own.  I’ve never been very good at transcribing guitar chords by ear.  I used to make MIDI files for a couple of Final Fantasy games in my teenage years, and I got good at picking out individual instruments and tracking those for the MIDI.  I also could figure out bass riffs, but i’d use those bass riffs to figure out guitar parts, which worked for a fair amount of the time.

So what you’re watching is my transcription of the song.  I figured out it was a capo’d song from the music video that Sheryl Crow made.  However, the sound I picked up was from a first fretted capo, not a sixth like in the video.  Sure, it worked on sixth when I was messing around with it, but it sounded more accurate on 1st.

Here are the chords I transcribed, relative to 1st fret capo.

Verse: Am, F, C, G

Chorus: Am, C, F, C, G

If you have suggestions or changes, please let me know about them.  I hope, regardless, you enjoy tonight’s video!

“Out Of Our Heads” by Sheryl Crow – Chords, Tabs, and How to Play

“Out Of Our Heads”
Sheryl Crow

(Capo 1)

Am                               F
If you feel you wanna fight me,
C                                             G
There’s a chain around your mind.
When something is holding you tightly,
What is real is so hard to find.

Losing babies to genocide,
Oh, where’s the meaning in that plight.
Can’t you see that we’ve really bought into
Every word they proclaimed and every lie, oh…

Am              C           C              F            F              C
If we could only get out of our heads, out of our heads,
And into our hearts…
If we could only get out of our heads, out of our heads,
And into our hearts…

Someone’s feeding on your anger.
Someone’s been whispering in your ear.
You’ve seen his face before;
You’ve been played before.
These aren’t the words you need to hear.

Through the dawn of darkness blindly,
You have blood upon your hands.
All the world will treat you kindly,
But only the heart will understand, oh understand…

If we could only get out of our heads, out of our heads,
And into our hearts….
Children of Abraham, lay down your fears, swallow your
tears, and look to your heart.

(repeat CHORUS 2)

Every man is his own prophet,
Oh, every prophet just a man.
I say, all the women stand up, say yes to themselves;
Teach your children best you can.

Let every man bow to the best in himself;
We’re not killing any more.
We’re the wisest ones, everybody listen,
‘Cause you can’t fight this feeling any more, oh, any more…

CHORUS 2 (repeat)

End on:


** These chords and lyrics are interpretations and transcriptions, respectively, and are the sole property of the copyright holder(s). They are posted on this website free of charge for no profit for the purpose of study and commentary, as allowed for under the “fair use” provision of U.S. copyright law, and should only be used for such personal and/or academic work. **