musical

'Definitive Chick Corea' Reissue on Concord

Since his earliest recordings in the 1960s, pianist, keyboardist, and composer Chick Corea has consistently taken the creative process to a level that transcends conventional musical doctrines. After spending his formative years with artists as diverse as Miles Davis, Herbie Mann, Stan Getz, and Sarah Vaughan, Corea helped redefine the boundaries of jazz as a founding member of the acclaimed Return To Forever, one of the most innovative and daring jazz fusion collectives of the last half-century. In more recent decades, as the leader of numerous projects that have explored various aspects of the musical landscape, he continues to be an influential force in modern jazz.

In celebration of Corea’s 70th birthday this summer, Concord Music Group provides a look back at three decades’ worth of brilliant recordings in The Definitive Chick Corea on Stretch and Concord. The sweeping two-disc collection — the latest in CMG’s ongoing Definitive series — begins with some of Corea’s best sessions with Stretch in the early 1980s and follows him through the end of the century to his work on Concord up to 2009. The Definitive Chick Corea on Stretch and Concord is set for release on June 7, 2011, just days ahead of the artist’s 70th birthday on June 12.

The collection is being released simultaneously with Forever, a new two-disc electric/acoustic set that Corea recorded live with Return To Forever bandmates Stanley Clarke and Lenny White — along with, on disc two, a few high-profile guests (Chaka Khan, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Bill Connors) — during a world tour in 2009. A previously unreleased version of Corea’s well-known “La Fiesta,” captured during this tour, is the closing track on The Definitive Chick Corea.

Even a quick glance at the range of material in this collection — 21 tracks in all — provides an impressive perspective on the breadth and depth of Corea’s imagination, according to veteran music journalist Don Heckman, who wrote the liner notes for the set.
“Start with the all-star collectives of the early ’80s that find him in the company of such jazz stalwarts as Michael Brecker, Joe Henderson, Roy Haynes, Lee Konitz, and Gary Peacock, to name only a few,” says Heckman. “Add the musical encounters with old friend and frequent collaborator Gary Burton, the first Origin tracks and a glimpse of Chick’s insightful approach to standards. And, in the 2000s, more unusual musical encounters, this time with Bobby McFerrin, Béla Fleck, Hiromi, John McLaughlin, and again Burton, as well as the Elektric and Akoustic Bands.”
As to the divine nature of the creative process, Heckman recalls a quote from Corea himself about the higher channel that every artist eventually dials into: “Your tastes can change from day to day,” says Corea. “But the whole point of being an artist, with my groups, has always been spirituality, art as spirit. That’s our message, and translated into human rights terms, it’s freedom of expression. Freedom of thought, which is actually broader than freedom of religion . . . Freedom to think as you will. Which means freedom to pray, practice your own religion, play what music you want, say what opinions you have, communicate as you want. And that’s our premise.”
The music within The Definitive Chick Corea on Stretch and Concord exemplifies Corea’s unwillingness to be restricted by artificial boundaries, says Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s Vice President of Catalog and Jazz A&R and co-producer — in collaboration with Corea — of this collection. “One of the many amazing things about Chick is just how restlessly creative he is — not only as an instrumentalist, but also as a composer,” says Phillips. “He’s a true artist who’s not driven by fickle trends, or some conventional norm about the way a jazz tune should be written or played. He’s driven purely by his own boundless creativity, and he has demonstrated that throughout his career. That’s what shines through on these tracks and that’s why each one is timeless.”
Heckman sums up the release as “a three-decade, double-disc album of selected musical scenes from a richly creative life. An album guaranteed to appeal to Chick’s dedicated fans, as well as the lucky listeners who will be experiencing the pleasures of first discovery.”
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TRACK LIST:

Disc 1

Tap Step
Quartet No. 1
Folk Song
Duende
Windows
Armando’s Rhumba
Bud Powell
Dreamless
Wigwam
Spain
It Could Happen To You
Disc 2
Blue Monk
Bessie’s Blues
Johnny’s Landing
North Africa
The Fool on the Hill
Señorita
Crystal Silence
The Disguise
La Fiesta [previously unreleased]
Fingerprints

Luther Russell Announces New Double LP

Luther Russell is set to release his fifth LP, a double-length entitled The Invisible Audience, on July 12th on Ungawa Records. It's a wildly ambitious record from the multi-talented singer-songwriter/producer, which he calls "a glimpse into the jukebox of my psyche." The twenty-five tracks on this epic record were culled from months and months of recording "whenever I could get into my eight-track studio or on a four-track cassette to get an idea down." The album's narrative flow seems to run the gamut of emotions from regret, betrayal and loss to humor, nostalgia and hope. His last release, 2007's Repair (produced by Ethan Johns) was a ragged, rootsy pop record full of rich, sometimes bouncy melodies which belied their darker subject matter, namely that of his then-fresh divorce. The album won him quite a bit of acclaim but nonetheless failed to break him to a wider audience. Since then he concentrated on the production side of things, working with a wide array of artists, including Noah & The Whale, Laura Marling, Sarabeth Tucek, Holly Miranda, Richmond Fontaine, Sean Lennon and Fernando, to name a few.

It was during this industrious period that Luther would hit the recording studio on his own whenever time permitted "to capture some kind of feeling before it slipped away" or for other projects like "the odd failed soundtrack that never was." Being a multi-instrumentalist (Luther has lent his talents to many other artists on drums, guitar, bass, keys, etc.) helped to get many songs recorded with no time to waste. For instance, "Traces," a track evoking Slim Chance-era Ronnie Lane, was done "pretty much in one day", recalls Russell. Still, he did enlist help from a few close musical allies to help flesh out harmony-laden blasts like "Everything You Do" and "Tomorrow's Papers", as well as the psychedelic trance-rock of "Motorbike". In fact, on the elegiac "In This Time," members of his old band The Freewheelers popped by to help with the feel of the track. "I just had so many different types of songs coming out of me over the past few years that for once I wanted to intertwine as many as I could, regardless of style or genre, to try and paint a more complete picture of who I am as an artist. This would be my chance because I could take my time and do it until it was done--whenever the hell that would be".

Turns out it wouldn't be for roughly five years, as Luther wouldn't finally compile the songs until he was able to listen to many different sequences on the often snail-paced subway rides between Manhattan and Brooklyn where he had relocated after several years in Los Angeles. "I just began to hit upon the fact that all of the instrumental tracks that I had accrued could provide little 'smoke breaks' for the listener, so to speak". Inspired by the sprawling double-albums of his youth, such as Husker Du's Zen Arcade, Game Theory's Lolita Nation and Fleetwood Mac's Tusk, he began to see the songs woven together in a longer, more colorful tapestry. "I wanted to make a record that someone could literally get lost in...every time you'd drop the needle you'd be somewhere new. It would be like a friend that was always around, but each time you get together something has changed a little, just like in life". Invariably the album would wind up consisting of some darker pathways, to which Luther attributes more than a few harrowing experiences, such as the sudden passing of two of his "very best friends" and a horrible accident where he nearly lost use of his right hand. "A period of intense darkness seemed to settle over me after the recording of my last record. Moving to New York was definitely an 'escape' of sorts, but the kind of loss I experienced over the past few years one can never quite shake, I think".

It's these more contemplative stretches of musical highway that are found in songs such as "A World Unknown," a stripped-down blues lament concerning "various frightened glimpses into one's own mortality" and "1st & Main," a spidery concoction regarding a certain sojourn through downtown L.A. "which I'd rather not discuss", Russell broods. Livelier tracks include the uproarious "Long Lost Friend," something of a sonic shotgun-wedding between the Faces and Nilsson, juxtaposed with lyrics about "literally having fuck-all", and "Ain't Frightening Me," a dervish of acid words and zig-zag melody influenced by the proto-power-pop of Nick Lowe and Dwight Twilley. The font of mix-and-match songcraft throughout the record can also be attributed to Luther's background, which includes a grandfather and great-uncle, each of whom wrote several Tin Pan Alley standards. It's this family history which he pays tribute to on instrumentals such as the ragtime-y "109th & Madison" (named for the intersection in Harlem where his grandmother grew up) and "Still Life Radio," the old Broadway-style opener which evokes an instant nostalgia even before the expansive record has begun to rev-up (with the grinding Sidekick Reverb).

As to the inevitable head-scratching regarding the sheer length of the record, Luther takes it in stride. "I fully get and understand that many people will ask 'why so long' and generally not have the patience to sit through such an 'endless' listen", he laughs, "but I just had to do it. It just felt right and I thought it would be a true musical experience--that is if you even like what I do in the first place!" This time around, not only has Luther Russell made a record that has many of the hallmarks he is known for (ear-catching melodies, lyrics layered with multiple meanings and adventurous musicianship), but he's managed to make one that contains all of them: the dark folk-blues territory he has covered in past records such as Lowdown World, the bold experimentation found in out-of-nowhere u-turns like Down At Kit's and the melancholy pop of the aforementioned Repair. The Invisible Audience aims to tie up the many loose ends of Luther's recorded output and twist it into something new, yet strangely recognizable. "It's an album made for music fans. People like me. Folks who want to disappear for a while, take a vacation from all the bullshit. All you need is a pair of headphones and an open mind".

Sugar Hill Records Releases Wood and Stone from Tara Nevins

American roots traditionalist Tara Nevins releases an exploration of her own heritage, musical and otherwise, in Wood and Stone, her first solo album since Mule to Ride in 1999.  Wood and Stone showcases her ever-evolving repertoire as she journeys both back to her own “roots” and head-long into new territory.

Fans of Nevins from her 21-year tenure with Donna the Buffalo are familiar with her versatile talents; she shares the vocal and songwriting responsibilities for the band and is a stellar musician on fiddle, guitar, and accordion.  (She plays a mean scrubboard too.) Prior to DTB, Nevins was a founding member of the all-female, old time/Cajun band The Heartbeats. (They join her on two tracks here as well.) Wood and Stone delivers the musical expertise fans have come to expect and surprises with new perspectives.

“This album is personal and sort of revelatory,” Nevins says.  “It’s an expression of recent emotional discovery within relationships lost and found, and how knowing the core of who we are is the real deal. There were so many elements I wanted to explore—to combine all the pieces of my personal musical puzzle--and then have it come together in a cohesive whole. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Larry Campbell.  I am honored to have had him both produce and play on my record.  He's an amazingly talented and soulful musician.  He has a very natural, down-to-earth approach and an instinctual insightfulness that I really appreciate; he really got what I was after. The whole experience was inspiring and challenging in a very positive way.”

Campbell is a much-sought-after musician/producer renowned for his work with Bob Dylan and still rolling from the success of Levon Helm’s two Grammy- winners, Dirt Farmer and Electric Dirt, which he produced.  He found Nevins’s project immediately compelling.  “I liked the feel of the project-- her combination of old-time mountain music and original songwriting—and I was taken with Tara’s unique talent; she’s got a distinctive voice—there’s a kind of honesty that shines through.”
Ten of the thirteen tracks are originals, and Nevins’s complexity gets a broad stage. She dispenses wit and wisdom with an atypical take on love and relationships through gritty songs such as “You’ve Got It All” and “You’re Still Driving That Truck,” then turns to wrenching hearts with songs like “Snowbird” (accompanied by Jim Lauderdale), a beautiful metaphorical ballad about the pain of loving someone unable to truly give back, and “Tennessee River,” a haunting, gripping song about the stranglehold love can have over a person’s whole existence.  “Stars Fell on Alabama” sounds like it fell from her heart and pen too, but Nevins has the capacity to take a well-known standard like this, change the melody, and perform it so ingenuously that it fits in seamlessly to the whole groove of the record.
The record kicks off with the title cut “Wood and Stone,” and that “honest” element is readily apparent in this touching tribute to home and family. Old-timey acoustics are quickly joined by drums and steel guitars as Nevins sings about “the better part of me” regarding her upbringing and early influences.  “It’s got that magical blend of music and lyrics,” Campbell says of it, “and it really paints a picture of where she comes from.”
The record is “framed” by another nostalgic piece, “The Beauty of the Days Gone By” (by Van Morrison), bringing the record full-circle and serving as a sort of catharsis for the dark tone of “Tennessee River”.  “I wanted to end the record with it,” Nevins explains, “because I love the sentiment of the song and it’s kind of like ‘the sun always comes back out’ kind of thing. We grow and learn and take our relationships with us for better and for worse and that’s life in all its beauty and glory.”

Nevins’s rare blend of enormous talent coupled with genuine down-home humbleness has won the hearts of fans and colleagues alike.  “Tara has this worldly awareness combined with a fragile innocence,” Larry Campbell notes, “which makes her songwriting and music very accessible…very appealing.”  Wood and Stone is sure to add to that appeal.

Rex Foundation Positive News & New Solar Energy Connection

The Rex Foundation community of grantees and supporters provide positive news to remind us of all the good work being done every day to address current challenges.

Check out our recently published Food for Thought feature about the International Senior Lawyers Project (ISLP), recipient of the 2004 Rex Foundation Bill Graham Award.  As you will see, since 2001, ISLP has been providing much needed legal expertise to help nations across the world effectively deal with major challenges from natural disasters to political upheaval.  Even as we read about the current struggles in the Middle East, ISLP is providing helpful expertise and guidance.

Last month, Sarah Crowell, Artistic Director of Rex Grantee Destiny Arts Center, was honored by San Francisco's Public TV Station KQED as a 2011 "Women's History Hero".  Here is more information about the honor, and why Sarah's work and that of Destiny Arts Center are so deserving of this recognition.

Knowing that migrating to renewable energy, along with conservation, is vital to environmental health, we are pleased to announce a connection with Sungevity, a company seeking to expand availability of affordable solar energy while also supporting non-profit work.  Click here to get the details on how Sungevity's solar energy lease program might work for your home and, if so, how Rex will be supported as well.

The Rex Foundation is honored to be a vehicle for charitable contributions to support the essential work of grassroots non-profit programs, like HeadCount, pictured here.   The following are different ways you can help support Rex Foundation work while also enjoying great music and connection:

  • Join Kuli Loach on Sunday, April 17 when they will play Grateful Dead music at the historic Blue Moon in Seattle, WA, helping celebrate the venue's 77th anniversary while also supporting Rex.  Here are the details. We thank Kuli Loach and all the other musicians and businesses who are part of the Rex Musical Caravan for their ongoing generosity and support of Rex and grassroots giving. E-mail us at info@rexfoundation.org or call 415-561-3134 to get on board the Caravan.
  • We are excited to announce the release of 12 tracks of outstanding music from the December 4, 2010 Rex Benefit Concert "The Wheel - A Musical Celebration of Jerry Garcia." Enjoy the unique musical experience that took place at The Fillmore in San Francisco, bringing together Jesse McReynolds, Peter Rowan, David Nelson and their respective band members to play Jerry Garcia/ Robert Hunter and traditional American roots songs together. Click here for the full story of the connections the gifted musicians shared with Jerry Garcia, as well as to obtain the download versions and CD of the music, and see all who have made this release possible.
  • Check out the "Support Rex's Work" page of our website to see how you can make a charitable contribution, while also enjoying music, Rex merchandise and other goodies.

Paper Diamond & Michal Menert @ Boulder Theater

Paper Diamond: Forward is not just a direction, it's a way of life for Colorado based producer Alex B who is rolling out big tunes under the new guise of Paper Diamond in 2011. The new project finds the trusted producer moving into previously untraveled musical territory. The Paper Diamond sound has raw energy and the kind of dramatic anticipation only a seasoned producer can incite. Driving beats and bass grab on tight while deep, rich tones rumble under layers of spacey synthesizers, sweet melodies, and catchy vocals. One thing is for sure. The energy is high.

Michal Menert: Coming from a musical background of playing guitar, keyboards, and dabbling in a variety of other instruments gave Michal a unique approach to composing his own musical style. He grew up in Colorado with Derek Vincent Smith of Pretty Lights, and together they played in several bands and challenged and inspired each other as they developed their own unique production styles. He co-produced the debut Pretty Lights album, “Taking Up Your Precious Time” and has collaborated with Derek Vincent Smith on a handful of tracks since then. His solo album, entitled “Dreaming of A Bigger Life” was released on Pretty Lights Music in the spring of 2010. His sound combines obscure vintage samples from both Eastern European and Western vinyl with rich analog synthesis and organic hard hitting beats. It is a fusion of yesterday’s elements and tomorrow’s ideas.

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2011 Backbeat Jazzfest Series

The Backbeat Jazzfest Series will present its sixth annual consecutive series of evening concerts from April 29 - May 8, 2011 coinciding with the weeks of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. This series celebrates the music and spirit of New Orleans and showcases internationally renowned bands and the best in local New Orleans music in a manner that encourages collaboration to create those magical musical moments for the audience and performers alike. As in past years, the 2011 Backbeat Jazzfest Series is an evening destination for music lovers across the country craving late night entertainment after a day filled with musical celebration at Jazzfest.

This year the Backbeat Jazzfest Series will feature shows at its usual spots, Blue Nile and Tipitina's French Quarter, plus venues new to the series Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré, 12 Bar, The Temple (also known as the Scottish Rite Temple.) and Tipitina's Uptown.

Del McCoury and Preservation Hall Release Joint Album Today!

Fans who have been streaming American Legacies, the unprecedented collaboration between bluegrass music’s legendary Del McCoury Band and New Orleans music giants, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, can finally snag a copy of the album for themselves today, April 12th, as the set is released in multiple configurations designed to appeal to casual listeners and dedicated followers alike.  The musical partners are also celebrating the event with the release of a new video that gives a sneak peek at the cross-genre blend on both a musical and personal level, with comments from Del McCoury, the PHJB’s Ben Jaffe and more, available at http://www.mccourymusic.com/americanlegacies.cfm, where the curious can still stream the project in its entirety as well as order it directly from the source.

The set—and the joint tour organized to bring its music to venues around the country—have already gotten plenty of attention for its remarkable blend of traditions. The twin legacies of bluegrass and jazz are combined in ways that underline their points of contact while preserving their distinctive characteristics, as horns blend with string band instruments to produce something at once refreshingly new and yet profoundly familiar, from the opening, tradition-based “The Band’s In Town” through the closing “One More ‘Fore I Die.”  And whether they’re tackling a decades-old standard or a new composition, the two groups bring fierce musicianship, deep respect and a rollicking good humor to the musical table in a way that makes the joy of the encounter unmistakable.

Known as one of the premiere ambassadors of bluegrass, the Del McCoury Band is fronted by veteran Del McCoury, who apprenticed in the honkytonks of Baltimore and with Bill Monroe before starting his own band more than 40 years ago.  A hero to east coast bluegrass audiences through the 1970s and 1980s, he stepped onto the national stage with a move to Nashville in the early 1990s that started the Del McCoury Band on an unprecedented streak of International Bluegrass Music Association awards and international acclaim.  Today, McCoury, along with a band that includes his sons Ron and Rob, are admired by hard-core bluegrass traditionalists and eclectic music fans and stars alike as they make appearances everywhere from the Bonnaroo Music Festival to late night network TV shows to their own popular Delfest.  For millions of fans across the US and around the world, the Del McCoury Band is simply the face of bluegrass.

Founded just a few years before McCoury joined Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been carrying the distinctive sound of New Orleans jazz around the world on behalf of Preservation Hall, a unique venue that embodies the city’s musical legacy.  With a cast of musicians schooled through first-hand experience and apprenticeship into the music’s historic traditions, the PHJB has served as an irreplaceable, vital link to the earliest days of one of America’s most beloved forms of popular music, evoking the spirits of times past in an ever-evolving modern context that has found them traveling around the world.

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Del McCoury/Preservation Hall Tour Dates:

April 13 - St. Charles, MO @ Family Arena
April 14 - Lawrence, KS @ University of Kansas- Leid Center
April 15 - Appleton, WI @ Fox Cities PAC
April 16 - Naperville, IL @ Pfeiffer Hall
April 17 - Fayetteville, AR @ Baum Walker Hall at Walton Arts Center
April 19 - Wilmington, NC @ The Sarah Graham Kenan Memorial
May 12 - Los Angeles, CA @ UCLA- Royce Hall
May 27 - DelFest, Cumberland, MD
June 10 - Bonnaroo, Manchester, TN
July 7 - Winnipeg Folk Fest
August 6 - Edmonton Folk Fest

The Band of Heathens | Oriental Theater | 3/29/11

The Band of Heathens kicked off their West Coast tour on Tuesday at the Oriental Theater in Denver. The show also marked the release of the Americana rock band’s new LP Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster’s Son.

Rex Foundation releases The Wheel - A Musical Celebration of Jerry Garcia

On Tuesday March 29, 2011 the Rex Foundation will release 12 tracks from The Wheel – A Musical Celebration of Jerry Garcia. Recorded at The Fillmore in San Francisco, this special live album features some of Garcia’s oldest cohorts playing some of his most well-known songs.

Hosted by the Rex Foundation at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium on December 4, 2010, the benefit concert entitled “The Wheel – A Musical Celebration of Jerry Garcia” was a historic night. Among the evening’s unique music experiences was the bringing together of Jesse McReynolds, Peter Rowan and David Nelson.

McReynolds, Rowan, and Nelson each shared a deep connection with Garcia dating back to the early 1960s. In 1962, when Jerry Garcia began playing the banjo and exploring bluegrass music, he formed a band called the Hart Valley Drifters with David Nelson on guitar. In 1964, as part of his bluegrass pilgrimage through the American South, Jerry sought out the even-then legendary bluegrass musicians “Jim and Jesse” (McReynolds). Garcia held Jesse’s mandolin playing and music in high esteem for many more years to come. In 1969, as the Grateful Dead released Aoxomoxoa, Jerry was also collaborating with other musical friends. He reconnected with David Nelson and John “Marmaduke” Dawson to form New Riders of the Purple Sage. He formed another bluegrass band, Old and in the Way, with David Grisman, John Kahn, Peter Rowan and Vassar Clements. Coming full circle, in October 2010, McReynolds released Songs of the Grateful DeadA Tribute to Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, collaborating with none other than David Nelson.

At the December 4th benefit event, the featured artists, along with members of their respective bands, which included Garrett McReynolds, Steve Thomas, Jody Stecher, Keith Little, Paul Knight, Barry Sless, Robin Sylvester, John Molo, Mookie Siegel, and special guest Matt Butler of The Everyone Orchestra, had the exceptional opportunity to play Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter and traditional American roots songs together.

Following the show many people noted that this remarkable music should be made available to those who could not attend, as well as to extend the reach of the benefit to provide additional charitable support to the Rex Foundation. On Tuesday March 29, 2011 this will be the case with downloads and CDs available from nugs.net for all to enjoy. As a special bonus, nugs.net is offering a free album listening party during the week of the release exclusively at nugs.net/wheel.

The Wheel – A Musical Celebration of Jerry Garcia Track List is as follows:

1. Black Muddy River
2. Ripple
3. Deep Elem Blues
4. Peggy-0
5. Friend of the Devil
6. Alabama Getaway
7. Standing on the Moon
8. Franklin’s Tower
9. Casey Jones
10. Dark Hollow
11. The Wheel
12. Cumberland Blues

The compilation will be available beginning March 29, 2011 in the following formats:
·MP3, FLAC, and Apple Lossless downloads at nugs.net/wheel
·iTunes download
·CD only available at nugs.net/wheel

About Rex Foundation:
Furthering what Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead started 27 years ago, the Rex Foundation endeavors to fund grassroots programs that are often under the radar of larger funding entities, yet work in bold, innovative ways to carry out essential work toward a healthy environment, promotion of the arts, protection of indigenous cultures, assisting others less fortunate, building strong communities, and educating children and adults. The Rex Foundation has distributed $8.6 million in grants to over 1,000 programs across the U.S. and internationally, while also carrying out fundraising initiatives that foster creativity and positive community connections. Visit www.rexfoundation.org for a complete list of grantees and information about current initiatives.

Sheryl Crow @ Boulder Roots & Blues Summit

For Sheryl Crow, the title of her seventh album isn?t just a location; it's a state of mind. "I grew up in a small town 100 miles from Memphis, and that informed not only my musical taste, but how I look at life," she says. "The drive to Memphis is all farmland, and everyone is community-oriented, God-fearing people, connected to the earth. The music that came out of that part of the world is a part of who I am, and it's the biggest inspiration for what I do and why I do it."

So for the Kennett, Missouri native, calling the disc 100 Miles From Memphis is a statement of purpose, both musical and emotional. It also marks a long-awaited return by the nine-time Grammy winner to the sounds that first drew her to making music.

The results evoke a time when soul and passion filled the radio waves, when the sweat and joy of a recording session could be captured forever on wax. Sometimes the musical references?Al Green, Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder?are made apparent, but the album?s eleven songs are characterized more by capturing a classic spirit than by imitating any specific style.

Crow explains that the way 100 Miles From Memphis was recorded is crucial to its slinky grooves and rolling rhythms. Produced by Doyle Bramhall II and Justin Stanley ("I knew they could get that old soul feeling with authenticity," she says), and cut mostly live with a regular crew of musicians, the album presented a new set of challenges for her as a singer and a songwriter.

With the musical direction already established, the album's messages crystallized in one night at Crow's farm, outside of Nashville. "Having a three year old, you don't get too much quiet time," she says, "but I sat up one night, and I worked all night long and came up with the better part of five lyrics."

What emerged was a set of songs that are unusually open and direct for someone often celebrated for the care and craft of her writing. "This music called for emotion, a place of sensuality and sexuality, and that's a little challenging for me," she says. "Sometimes it's easier for me to hide behind more intellectual lyrics. So it was a great stretching experience to show more vulnerability in my writing."

The songs on 100 Miles From Memphis display impressive range, in feeling and performance. First single "Summer Day" is a delightfully breezy slice of glory-days AM radio pop. "I wanted to experiment with writing something simple and positive," says Crow. "The feeling of a great, solid love, not just a new love, but something everlasting."

Crow, of course, first reached the spotlight as a back-up singer with Michael Jackson, and adds that "I Want You Back" was the first single she ever bought. "It wasn't a conscious choice to do an homage, but it wound up being a very bittersweet thing," she says. "Michael's death brought a lot of stuff back for me, so it was nice that we could include this."

For Sheryl Crow, 100 Miles From Memphis is the right album at the right moment. "My last record (2008's Detours) was pretty political, extremely personal, and more lyric-driven," she says, "so it seemed like a great time to do something soulful and sexy and more driven by the music." It took a lot of years, but with this set of songs, she finally made it back home.

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