Sunday, November 27, 2011

Elevator Music Crow: Pickin' On Sheryl Crow Might Be A Tribute, But It's Bad.

The Good: Adequate instrumentals
The Bad: Guts the resonance and impact of most of Crow's songs, SHORT
The Basics: An instrumental tribute to Sheryl Crow takes her memorable pop-rock songs and makes them upbeat country numbers on Pickin’ On Sheryl Crow: A Tribute.

Sometimes, I encounter something that is so bad that it becomes very easy to pan, but very hard to find enough to write about to make it worth my while (all those who argue for brevity in my reviews, here you go!). In the case of Pickin’ On Sheryl Crow: A Tribute, I instantly came up with my analogy. For those who have seen the Family Guy: Blue Harvest Star Wars parody (reviewed here!) there is an easy way to analogize Pickin’ On Sheryl Crow - when Peter, Chris and Brian are in the elevator headed to the detention level, there is an upbeat elevator muzak version of the Imperial March that completely guts the resonance of the original track. That is how the entire album Pickin’ On Sheryl Crow: A Tribute is.

Sheryl Crow was my Artist Of The Month with Shania Twain and the library that supplies me with most of my titles just managed to get in the tribute album and the irony here is that this has a much more country-music flavor to it than the original works. Quite simply, Pickin’ On Sheryl Crow: A Tribute is one dozen songs that Sheryl Crow made popular done as instrumental music pieces. As a result, there are none of Crow's (or anyone else's) lyrics, no vocals and all of the instrumentals are dominated by instruments that were not associated with the original songs.

With twelve tracks, clocking out at 44:40, Pickin’ On Sheryl Crow: A Tribute might be a tribute to Sheryl Crow, but it is not the best, nor is it in anyway remotely faithful. The album includes recognizable Sheryl Crow songs like "All I Wanna Do," "If It Makes You Happy," and "My Favorite Mistake" as instrumental-only tracks. But alongside the recognizable songs are Sheryl Crow songs that were never popular - and after having spent a month listening to her music, some of these aren't even recognizable! - like "Sweet Rosalyn," "Redemption Day," and "Solidify." Sheryl Crow was not involved in any way with the production of this album or the genesis of the music after her writing the tunes originally.

Pickin’ On Sheryl Crow: A Tribute is performed largely by the musicians Brent Truitt, Dennis Crouch, Earl Palmer, Rock Savage, Richard Bailey, Tim Crouch, and Lee Hanover. Seldom do all of the artists appear on the same track, but generally they work to recreate the instrumental accompaniment of Sheryl Crow on the mandolin, dobro, banjo and fiddle. For sure, there are acoustic guitars and limited percussion, but the primary instruments are the ones more associated with Country music. In fact, the only real surprise about this album is the absence of the pedal steel. The instrumentalists play the instruments adequately in that they hit the notes and the songs are recognizable for those who have heard the Sheryl Crow originals on the radio or her albums.

There are two fundamental problems with Pickin’ On Sheryl Crow: A Tribute, though. The primary problem is that these instrumentals gut the emotional intent and resonance of many of the original songs. Take, for example, "My Favorite Mistake." On this album, it appears with an upbeat mandolin replacing Crow's vocals. While the original song has a deep, moody progression that is agonizing to listen to (it's a great breakup or tormented "let's stay together" song), the version on this album is peppy and energetic. It's a fun song and it lacks any resonance. It is flighty and unmemorable; it is the elevator music version of the "Imperial March." The original emotional intent or even musical memorability of the originals of "My Favorite Mistake," "Anything But Down," "It Don't Hurt," and "Everyday Is A Winding Road" are robbed by these energetic reinterpretations that seem to prioritize getting the listener to dance or move as opposed to actually feel anything deep or passionate.

In fact, the only song that actually maintains the semblance of the original version's intent - outside "All I Wanna Do," which was upbeat to begin with - is "Strong Enough." On that song, Crow's vocals are replaced with a fiddle and it works surprisingly well to make the song emotional. The song has the same heartbreaking impact that the original does. Unfortunately, that is the only cover this group dares to not pep up.

The second problem with the album is that the musicians either run out of works to play (which is strange given how short the album is) or they reveal a lack of originality in Crow's original works. The third track, "Sweet Rosalyn" includes a callback to the refrain of "Anything But Down," which precedes it! It is weird because all of a sudden, the prior song's theme is there in the middle of the current song!

Largely, though, this is an attempt by an instrumental group to cash in on Sheryl Crow's name by playing her songs in a way that is upbeat, energetic and utterly unworth the listener's time and attention. Well, unless they are trapped in an elevator and want inoffensive, lyricless music to distract them from their predicament.

The best track is "Strong Enough," the rest of the album is not worth listening to.

For other works actually by Sheryl Crow, please visit my reviews of:
Tuesday Night Music Club
Sheryl Crow
The Globe Sessions
C’Mon, C’Mon
The Very Best Of Sheryl Crow
Hits And Rarities


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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