In between rounding up the livestock, slinging hash at the Diamond Grill and drinking beer with men called Buck, it’s just amazing that [a]Sheryl Crow[/a] found the time this summer to record a live album at a NYC charity show. The aw-shucks heroine in the faded denim, the welcoming diner waitress with an extra helping of fries for the stranger in town, she’s written some fairly pleasant anthems for the drive-time generation, but although she might be jovially full of “Howyadoin?” and “Everybody awlright?” for this big city crowd, this record heightens the suspicion that the blue-collar charm hides a black heart.
This downhome girl has some uptown friends – the terrifying ‘friends’ of the title – and it’s them that ultimately blow her cover, highlighting the elaborate veneer of the simplicity schtick. The oily smoothness of ‘Every Day Is A Winding Road’ and ‘All I Wanna Do’ are, yes, ‘sassy’, but it’s brittle bitterness that lurks close to the twanging surface of ‘If It Makes You Happy’ and ‘Strong Enough’. By the time the celebrity squares are brought out, it’s all ringing very hollow indeed. The Dixie Chicks and Sarah McLachlan might be friends to Sheryl, but they’re enemies of taste, while elsewhere, the show turns into Barely Live Aid.
Stevie Nicks is suitably unravelled on ‘Gold Dust Woman’, Eric Clapton bellows his way through the mighty ‘White Room’ like he’s being hunted for his tusks, but best of all is the venerable Keith Richards, not so much for his musical contribution to the Stones‘ ‘Happy’ and Dylan‘s – ha – ‘Tombstone Blues’, but the announcement, “It’s great to be here – it’s great to be anywhere.”
In the glare of such fame, Sheryl‘s dubious egalitarian charms soon wither. This is the big league rock game, and don’t you forget it, worm. This is [I]more [/I]vindication. All she wants to do is have some fun. It’s just that you’re paying for it.