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Sheryl Crow's "Winding Road" Takes Some More Turns

Of the Oakland Press

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Sheryl Crow once sang that “everyday is a winding road” — especially, she’s discovered, in the music industry.

The Missouri-born singer-songwriter will be the first to acknowledge that her latest album, “Detours,” has taken, well, a detour from the platinum musical path she’s trod since the release of her 1993 debut, “Tuesday Night Music Club.”

The album which came out in February and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts, has sold about 350,000 copies in the U.S. and 600,000 copies worldwide.

It may well end a string of five platinum-or-better studio albums in the nine-time Grammy Award winner’s catalog, which also includes a Top 5 duet with Kid Rock on “Picture” in 2002.

What’s happened? “Well, it’s kind of a dismal time in the music business, which is unfortunate,” Crow notes. “It would be great if everybody could come out and see everyone play, but gas prices are terrible. And people obviously don’t necessarily feel the responsibility or even, I guess, the conscious desire to pay for music now. So you really have no idea how many people actually own the music.”

That said, don’t expect to see Crow, 46, waving a white flag any time soon.

“I still love the record,” she says. “I’m really enjoying playing it. I think it’s surprising to me not only how well it translates live, but how many people actually now the lyrics.

“The reason that I do this is I love being an artist and I like the opportunity I have of going out and making that connection with people. It feels very valid and very gratifying.”

“Detours,” in fact, feels even more resonant to Crow because, as she explains, “what I have on this record are topics of real grave concern and interest to everyone I encounter.” It’s a frank chronicle of the last three years of her life,

Crow’s with onetime fiance Lance Armstrong, her battle with breast cancer and the 2007 adoption of her son, Wyatt.

Rolling Stone magazine called it her “most powerful and most personal record yet,” and Crow — who resides in Nashville and is said to be dating Alabama restaurateur John Cassimus — agrees that it’s “the most honest record I’ve ever made.”

It’s also the most politically pointed, with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina inspiring the singalong single “Love is Free” while “Shine Over Babylon” addresses environmental issues and “Peace Be Upon Us” features vocals by Arabic singer Ahmed Al Hirmi. “Gasoline” is about just what the title says, while Crow describes the current single, “Out of Our Heads,” as “a song about possibility, about the human spirit and how much power we all have. If we use that power in a way that’s motivated by compassion, clearly the world benefits from that.

“It’s a party song,” she adds with a laugh.

But while artists are sometimes taken to task for taking such stances, Crow says she’s feeling nothing but love for her messages.

“Songs like ‘Gasoline’ and ‘Out of Our Heads’ are really resonating,” she says. “In fact, ‘Out of Our Heads’ probably gets as big of a respnse and as big a participation as a song like (‘If It Makes You Happy’) does.

“For me, that’s very encouraging to see. I think people are not only overwhelmed but are very dismayed about what’s happening gas-wise in this country and what’s been happening in the (Bush) administration and with this war. There is a feeling of unity out there.”

Not surprisingly, Crow has a partisan position in this year’s presidential race.

“Oh, yeah, I’m supporting (Barack) Obama and have been from the beginning,” says Crow, who’s offered her services to the campaign as it sees fit. “I think his message is strong and clear. It is a message we need to start to believe in and we need to stop with the cynicism and really manifest ourselves as being a part of what happens in this country as opposed to what has just happened.

“We really let some bad things happen on our watch. Hopefully we’ll never repeat that again.”

“Detours” also reunited Crow with Bill Bottrell, who produced the seven-times platinum “Tuesday Night Music Club.”

“We always had a great working relationship,” notes Crow, who became associated with Bottrell after she spent time in Los Angeles singing commercial jingles and backup for Michael Jackson and Don Henley, among others.

“I think we really enjoy each other, and particularly in the last couple of years our lives have taken some directions and brought us back to this point. It’s just a really wonderful treat to get to work together again.”

It’s not surprising, then, that Crow “didn’t think of anybody else” but Bottrell when she began her next project, a holiday album for Hallmark that will be available this fall. The album includes “a beautifully lush, kind of soulful version” of “Oh Holy Night,” “All Through the Night,” “Merry Christmas, Baby,” “White Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “The Bells of St. Mary” and a Bottrell original called “Hello, Friend.”

“I had been wanting to do this for awhile, so when the opportunity came up I just kinda jumped at it,” Crow says. “I love Christmas music. We grew up in our family singing Christmas carols, four-part harmonies. Christmas wasn’t Christmas until the Christmas Eve service and we all sang in the choir. It’s still that way.

“Every year I’ve said, ‘I’m gonna make some Christmas music of my own.’ There’s been lots of amazing Christmas records that have come out, but where Christmas music is concerned there’s always room for everyone.”

Sheryl Crow, James Blunt and and Toots & the Maytals perform at 7 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 5)at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $36.50-$122.50 pavilion, $22 lawn with a $63 lawn four-pack available. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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