Sheryl Crow shows some more soul on her new album -- the soul she grew up with literally "100 Miles From Memphis" in Kennett, Mo.
"The timing of it was perfect," Crow tells Billboard.com about the 12-song set, which comes out July 20. "I've always had a lot of people around me...encouraging me to really get back to my roots. I was a kid that grew up listening to the radio; we'd tune the transistors to pick up the Memphis stations, and that kind of music was just a part of our consciousness. It just was a perfect time to go full-throttle with it."
Working with co-producers Doyle Bramhall II and Justin Stanley, Crow recorded "100 Miles..." at Henson Studio in Los Angeles and Electric Lady in New York. The team wrote the music first and left Crow to pen the lyrics afterwards, which she says "was like having homework." The songs, including the first single "Summer Day," are largely "about intimacy and desire and...vulnerability, and about love lost and love found." But "100 Miles..." also includes a few "political jabs" such as "Say What You Want," "Peaceful Feeling" and "Eye to Eye," a reggae-flavored track that features the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards on guitar.
Other guests include Citizen Cope on his "Sideways," while Justin Timberlake, a Memphis native, makes a surprise appearance on an Al Green-styled rendition of Terence Trent D'Arby's "Sign Your Name," one of several covers Crow recorded during the sessions. "He happened to be at (Henson) producing Jamie Foxx, and he was in the hallway," Crow recalls. "I've always liked him. I played (the song) for him, and when it got to the chorus he's like, 'Who's doing the backgrounds?' I said 'We haven't done them yet,' and he said, 'I got it.' It was all very organic and, man, perfect. People have no idea how talented this guy is."
Another surprise on "100 Miles..." is its closing cover of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," with Crow, who was a backing singer on Michael Jackson's 1988 world tour, sounding remarkably like the late icon. "We were recording an unreleased track by Marvin Gaye called 'Desperate Situation,' " Crow remembers, "and it was in that range so I just busted into ('I Want You Back') and the band followed, and when it was done everyone was like, 'What in the world?! We've got to put that on the album!' It's definitely an homage; the (Jackson 5) was the first album I ever owned, and the guy gave me my first job in the business and was incredibly generous with his talent with me."
Crow -- who also recorded a duet with Kid Rock called "Collide" for his upcoming album "Born Free" -- hits the road for the summer on June 11 at the Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga, Tenn. She'll also perform at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival on June 26 outside Chicago and will play five Lilith Fair dates in July. Besides "100 Miles...," Crow has also welcomed another new arrival -- second adopted son Levi James, who joins three-year-old Wyatt Steven.
"He's perfect in every way," Crow gushes. "At this stage, he's the perfect little blob who eats, sleeps and poops -- just precious, hardly ever cries. Wyatt actually loves him and loves being a big brother, so so far, so great."