It’s been some 26 years since Sheryl Crow dominated the early ’90s with her runaway smash hit folk-rock country-lite extravaganza Tuesday Night Music Club. There have since been nine albums all treading different sonic paths and showcasing her versatility and authenticity as an artist. Threads will seemingly be Crow’s 11th and final studio album proper and features collaborations and duets certainly fit for a fantastic swansong with Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, James Taylor and Vince Gill among the many buckling up for the ride.
With a track count of 17 and running time of near 75 minutes, this could appear overblown and there have been many tasters throughout the past year from the album. The opener Prove you Wrong is a knee-slapping, country-rock jive featuring Stevie Nicks and new country sensation Maren Morris. If this track seems a little lite, then the country blues triumvirate of Crow, Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples crank up the heat on Live Wire with Raitt’s trademark slide guitar and Staples’s playful husky vocals emboldening the sultry melody bemoaning a “Lover as stubborn as a weed”. One of the album’s standouts, Tell Me When It’s Over, evokes the iconic If It Makes You Happy, albeit less nihilistic and more realistic, and could make for a more discerning take on the narrative of My Favourite Mistake. This bittersweet bluesy pre-break up jam is simply gorgeous and the vocals from Crow and Chris Stapleton are delightfully canorous, like honey to one’s ears.
Known for her canny political lyrics and heartfelt activism, Crow lambasts politics, gun violence and greed to fine effect here. Story of Everything is a gorgeous funk soulscape featuring the brilliant Chuck D, the wonderful Andra Day and Gary Clark Jr. on guitar and wanders through the state of America right now from racial issues to politicians to social care. The candescent line “Our do-nothing congress, they never make mistakes, ’cause they don’t show up to work, except to give themselves a raise!” could not resonate more. Similarly Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You is a shimmer of a rock-out diatribe condemning capitalist greed and corruption featuring the magnificent St Vincent. The beautiful and powerful Redemption Day is stripped back and features vocals from Johnny Cash, as he recorded a version for his album American VI: Ain’t No Grave. The song begins as sparse and affecting as Madonna‘s Promise To Try and the haunting harmonies render the song all the more potent; the last piano stroke feels like a death knell for all of us.
There are some welcome thigh-slapping and fun rock-out moments. Everything Is Broken with Jason Isbell is basically a country version of the theme from the Wonder Woman TV series. Still The Good Old Days with Joe Walsh is glorious proof that living life ain’t just for kids, older people just have better wine. There are also some stunning mid-tempo love ballads with Eric Clapton, Sting and Brandi Carlile providing support on the cinematic Beware Of Darkness. Cross Creek Road with Lukas Nelson and Neil Young is gilt-edged country rock and The Worst featuring Keith Richards is sparse, yet stirring. Lonely Alone featuring Willie Nelson is a bluesy joy and Nobody’s Perfect with Emmylou Harris is bittersweet country at its best. For The Sake Of Love with Vince Gill is simply soaring.
The album’s highlight is the blindsiding Don’t with indie outfit Lucius. This retro, and almost Bacharachian, slice of powerful orchestral pop seemingly comes out of nowhere and will raise many an arm hair. This is pure sonic mescaline.
If Crow’s album charge has been eclectic, then Threads is surely a victory lap of the genres she has triumphantly explored throughout her career from blues to rock to folk to country to soul to R&B to americana. This album is a true and cathartic celebration of music and features some of the most treasured artists and the most hopeful future prospects. It’s all here and its glorious.