BY KARYN A. POKLETAR
After a career spanning more than 30 years, Sheryl Crow has grown from an elementary school music teacher to an internationally renowned rock-pop-blues and country artist. Live from the Ryman and more looks back on the career of the “If It Makes You Happy” singers with a stellar guest list added for our listening pleasure.
Over the decades, Crow and his band have been nominated and won numerous awards, starting with their first and most successful album to date, 1993’s Tuesday night music club which has sold over ten million copies worldwide and earned the international superstar a Grammy for Best New Artist. The single “All I Wanna Do” and radio-ready hits such as “Strong Enough” and “Can’t Cry Anymore” brought Crow more commercial success and spent 100 weeks on Billboard 200 at No. ranking. five.
His second album, Sheryl Raven, reached the top ten (spending over a year on the charts), debuting at number six, certified 7x platinum, with instant hits such as “A Change Would Do You Good”. Not all musicians are great singers, but Crow, who was born in a town of 10,000 (Kennet, Missouri) about 20 miles from the Mississippi River, is both. With six pianos in the house, her mother giving music lessons and her father playing the trumpet, how could her parents have known that, despite a focus of immersive musicality, their daughter would write “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997) for the James Bond franchise film of the same name and receive 32 Grammy nominations?
The musician, despite her roots in a small town, had an elite, a concentration of experiences. She shot baskets with Prince and Eric Clapton was her boyfriend. She sang the opera soprano with Pavarotti and her first major concert was as a backing vocalist for Michael Jackson’s Bad Tour in 1987. She had breast cancer, a broken engagement with Tour de France cyclist Lance Armstrong and lives with a benign, inoperable brain tumor. Touring for nearly two years with Jackson gave the singer-songwriter a crash course in how the music industry works, performing concerts for 75,000 fans by location and fame. Crow has also performed, with roles on NCIS, One Tree Hill, and 30 Rock. Plus, every studio album she’s made makes it into the top ten.
OK. Everyone raises their hands in the air like antennae exalting the heavenly host! Aside from the enthusiasm that ignites the hype, this album is made up of feats, grandeur and excitement that only a live performance can convey. The Leviathan with 27 tracks, two and a half hours, Live from the Ryman and more was primarily recorded in 2019 at the iconic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The “More” part of the album’s title alludes to recordings added at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles and the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island.
Music at its best is enjoyed live. Crow and his musical guests are throwing a big party, while also adding a much needed sense of community spirit, which is inevitable on a collaborative album. On the first track, she returns to her 2002 release “Steve McQueen”. The guitar is punitive, because Crow goes autobiographical in a rock’n’roll beat: “Well, I went to bed in Memphis // And I woke up in Hollywood.” Crow spent over 22 years in Los Angeles, but things have changed for the Missouri native. A change in values, demographics and lifestyle. She is now a mom and settles in Nashville with her two adopted sons where she can record in the studio built above the barn that houses her ten horses, while still being close to her children.
Remarkable arrangements on this collection are made to create the epic music spanning Crow’s career. Guest stars include Jason Isbell on “Everything is Broken”, Brandi Carlile on a haunting and charming cover of “Beware of Darkness” by George Harrison and Lucius on a handful of tracks. The iconic Stevie Nicks, along with Maren Morris, collaborate on “Prove You Wrong” of 2019. Also, Emmylou Harris sanctifies on “Nobody’s Perfect”.
Instead of gimmicks or a blatant ‘sex-sell’ type PR approach throughout her career, the singer has instead used her true musicianship, flair, and skill to maintain relevance. It’s a very good live album. It’s hard to remember what it feels like to attend a concert and this outing is a blissful reminder. If there’s one thing Crow covered up, it’s a hippie adaptation that blends well, synergistically, with the spirit of the album.
This version is beautiful in its range and density. Thanks Sheryl, Live from the Ryman and more is indeed the soundtrack of a well-deserved party.