Sheryl Crow, "100 Miles From Memphis"

77 Billboard Rating

Sheryl Crow's hometown of Kennett, Mo., is indeed 100 miles from Memphis. So she comes by the soul flavor of her latest album-which has periodically crept into its predecessors-honestly. After the understandably dour countenance of 2008's "Detours," "100 Miles From Memphis" finds Crow in a decidedly liberated and celebratory mind frame, stirring the sensibilities of the Stax, Motown and Hi empires into her own hybrid. These styles are reflected in the soaring sonic joy of "Summer Day," "Peaceful Feeling" and "Our Love Is Fading," as well as the funky slink of "Roses and Moonlight," the rootsy gospel testimony of "Long Road Home" and the smooth Al Green references in "Sign Your Name" (featuring Justin Timberlake on backing vocals). Keith Richards brings extra swagger to the reggaefied "Eye to Eye," while Citizen Cope provides an effective counterpoint to the aching "Sideways." Elsewhere, "Say What You Want" injects some political thought into the otherwise soul-baring set. A tendency to let the songs run too long notwithstanding, this "100 Miles" is a path Crow was certainly wise to tread.-Gary Graff