A lot of has happened since Sheryl Crow’s fifth studio album, “Wildflower,” hit stores in September 2005. Her very public relationship and engagement with champion cyclist Lance Armstrong came to an end in early 2006, and soon thereafter Crow was diagnosed with breast cancer. And just weeks before “Wildflower” was released — to mixed reviews and sales well below those of her past efforts — Hurricane Katrina wrought its lasting damage upon New Orleans and the surrounding area.
Crow’s thoughts on the aftermath of that tragedy as well as the ongoing war in Iraq, politics and the environment are all addressed on “Detours,” her new A&M album due this week.
But the new set is not just about the past. Indeed, it also represents new beginnings and the return of an old friend. In the spring of 2007, Crow became a single mother when she adopted a 2-week-old baby boy, Wyatt Steven. Just months earlier, in October 2006, she had moved to a 150-acre farm 45 minutes outside of Nashville, in the rolling hills of Williamson County. After living for years in Los Angeles and then in Texas with Armstrong, Crow made the move, she says, to be closer to family.
The 14-cut album is a wakeup call for Crow and for anyone listening. “I wanted to knock on some doors and wake some people up and just say, ‘What the heck are we doing?'” she says. “‘Where did we go? What did we become? We’re like zombies in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.'” If a wakeup call was her goal, she succeeded masterfully. While “God Bless This Mess” addresses current and recent political developments, the bouncy but impactful single “Love Is Free” fetes the people of New Orleans and their stoicism. “Peace Be Upon Us” pleads for understanding in a world that contends that one god is better than another. Elsewhere, “Now That You’re Gone,” “Drunk With the Thought of You” and “Diamond Ring” seem to address at least some aspects of her relationship with Armstrong. Even young Wyatt makes an appearance via “Lullaby for Wyatt.”
“I always contend that life informs art, and for me life right now is about being awake,” Crow says. “It’s difficult to be awake and not be affected by all that is going on around us. Not only at the grand level, but also personally how affected you are by these moments in your life that become pivotal or become refining moments. To me in looking back over my 45 years, almost 46 years, I can look distinctly at the detours I’ve taken in my life where I had to go far away to come back to knowing who I am, and I think that as a nation we’re also in that moment in time.”