100 Miles From Memphis

Sheryl Crow's seventh album is a homing-pigeon album. Musically-speaking, she's heading back to her days in Kennett, Missouri -- her hometown located about 100 miles from Memphis. The sounds she soaked up during those formative years -- Al Green, Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Stax Records -- form the basis for her new songs. While Crow's last record, (Detours, from 2008) was more political and lyric oriented, 100 Miles From Memphis is much more direct and groove-based. The album was made quickly, getting multiple songs down each day for only ten or twelve days, and the approach seems to have given the CD a energy and sense of fun.

Some notable people show up on the album, including Rolling Stones guitar legend Keith Richards on the soulful original "Eye to Eye." Crow does a cover of Citizen Cope's "Sideways" featuring Cope himself assisting the proceedings on vocals and guitar. And, perhaps most unexpectedly, pop sensation (and Memphis native) Justin Timberlake sings backup vocals on a track.

The album's coda, the final of three cover songs, offers a wistful enjoyment: a take on The Jackson 5's "I Want You Back." Crow was once employed as a backup singer for Michael Jackson, and the energetic rendition fits in with the rest of the album's vibe as well as serves as a farewell to her former boss.

Fans of Sheryl Crow won't want to miss 100 Miles From Memphis, and even those who don't count themselves among fans will find much to like here.

Mike Sauter, WYEP Music Director and Midday Mix host