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Houston Rock Band Pale Sets Release of New CD

Houston-based rock quartet Pale, known for a blend of soaring melodies set against explosive, guitar-fueled choruses, is set to release their long-awaited new recording entitled IN THE TIME OF DANGEROUS MEN on June 21st. The new CD, which will be available via independent A-Blake Records, was produced by Steve Christensen (Destiny's Child, Clay Walker), who scored a Grammy last year for his work on Townes-A Tribute to Townes Van Zandt by Steve Earle.

From "Bad Intel," the blistering opening track, to the atmospheric "Hushed Tones for Chosen Ones," IN THE TIME OF DANGEROUS MEN showcases the rock-solid songwriting that has been Pale's hallmark since the band formed nearly 10 years ago. "This band has finally got all the elements in place for something big," Artshound.com has touted of the group's new record.

IN THE TIME OF DANGEROUS MEN was recorded during a two-month period last year when the band was sequestered at their label's beach house in Crystal Beach, Texas. Pale, who have been compared favorably to Muse, Radiohead and even U2, emerged with 12 standout new songs and a renewed determination to bring their Brit-rock-influenced music to a wider audience.

Pale's big, dramatic sound is "as subtle as a freight train" as the repeating chorus from the pensive "Catastrophic Skies" implies. From deep, thought-provoking tracks like "Soon" and "My Final Warning" to the high-velocity rock of "Wolves Wait" and "Our Lone Star Shines," their homage to the great state of Texas, IN THE TIME OF DANGEROUS MEN showcases Pale's ability to write memorable songs. The driving "That Sinking Feeling," the first single from the new album, will be serviced to radio in the coming weeks.

The trademark emotive voice of Pale belongs to lead singer/guitarist and chief songwriter Calvin Stanley, who along with guitarist/ keyboardist Robb Moore, bassist Stephen Wesson and drummer Travis Middour quickly rose to the top of the Houston club scene and broadened their domain through impressive live performances on their own and as openers for acts as diverse as Depeche Mode, Roger Waters, Earshot and Blue October.

Pale's recording debut HERE was released in 2004to positive critical response. The six-song EP MANDATORY AMBULANCE followed in 2007, both produced by Lars Goransson (Fastball, the Cardigans, Blondie). The release of the new CD harkens to new opportunities to come. Michael Clark, writing in the Houston Chronicle, expounded, "Pale has the rock 'n' roll ideal: the moxie and evolving know-how to get noticed in a business that gives less and less opportunity to new talent," adding, "Pale is trying to find the rock 'n' roll spirit again."

That rock 'n roll spirit is particularly evident in the extraordinary video the band created for the epic track, "Catastrophic Skies." Enlisting the aid of director Sean Duke and Chase Rees of Think Big Productions as well as countless friends and local volunteers, the result is an opulent cinematic feast with the futuristic look of a Mad Max film set against a contemporary story line about independent music artists battling corporate greed. They even hosted a Hollywood-style premiere for the video at Houston's famed River Oaks Movie Theatre late last year. The song had once been under consideration for the soundtrack of the film Twilight: Eclipse.

"Pale's music inspires the dreamer in all of us," says Calvin Stanley. "I've had my head in the clouds since I was a kid, and I believe that everything is possible with this band. That kind of dreaming heart has really helped pull us through some difficult times."

Pale will hit the road this summer in support of IN THE TIME OF DANGEROUS MEN following a pre-release kick-off concert in their hometown of Houston.Live Pale appearances will be announced shortly.

Elvin Bishop's 'Raisin' Hell Revue' coming on Delta Groove on May 17

Elvin Bishop’s musical biography is no secret to anyone who has followed blues or rock over the past 40 years. Taken under wing by legendary bluesman Little Smokey Smothers in the ’60s, Bishop found a wide audience as guitarist in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and in the ’70s scored a Top-10 radio hit with “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.” Along the way, he’s carved out a niche all his own, playing an appealing mix of rootsy rock ’n’ roll, R&B and barroom boogie, steeped in the heavy blues he learned from Little Smokey all those years ago.

So when a bunch of close friends who also happen to be consummate musicians are sequestered together, as they were at sea on the 2010 Legendary Blues Cruise, what else were they to do but unite forces to create some truly exemplary music? Thankfully the tapes were rolling, and the musical experience was saved for posterity. Delta Groove Music will release the resultant Raisin’ Hell Revue live album on May 17, 2011. And with the good vibes of a ship full of fellow music lovers to buoy the band, you can really hear that everyone was having a great time.

Over the course of their featured performance, Bishop shares the vocal mike with four hard-hitting pros: blues veteran Finis Tasby (Lowell Fulson, Freddie King, Clarence Carter, Z.Z. Hill), fast-rising harmonica man John Németh (Anson Funderburgh, Junior Watson), Norwegian blues guitar star Chris (Kid) Anderson (Charlie Musselwhite’s band), and Bishop’s long-time band-mate and Bay Area legend, saxophonist Terry Hanck. They work their way through a strutting, soulful set of blues and R&B with the powerful grace of a veteran working outfit, perfectly highlighting the strengths of everyone involved. And it really is a “revue” in the classic sense of the term — various band members representing a wide array of styles move in and out of the spotlight, all presided over by the good-humored and congenial master of ceremonies Elvin Bishop. We’re treated to swinging up-tempo R&B, lowdown blues, rootsy rock ’n’ roll, and a touch of gospel; even a fantastic reworking of Bishop’s smash hit “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” is included featuring the wonderfully gifted and dynamic vocalist John Németh.

Born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Elvin Bishop didn’t have much exposure to live music as a youngster. But his family had a radio, and in between the pop schmaltz and the C&W that ruled the airwaves in the 1950s, that radio could sometimes catch the legendary R&B programming beamed throughout the southern part of the U.S. at night by Nashville radio station WLAC. That station introduced Bishop to the classic records of Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, and once his ears had been hooked, there was no turning back for young Elvin. He soon got his first guitar and on his own began scratching out the basic outlines of the blues, R&B and rock ’n’ roll that had captured his imagination.

By the time he was preparing to go to college in the late ’50s, Bishop had earned a National Merit Scholarship, allowing him to go to almost any school he chose — and there was only one choice on Elvin’s mind, the prestigious University of Chicago, which just happened to be located on Chicago’s South Side, ground zero for much of the urban blues Elvin had been studying only from a distance. He arrived in Chicago in 1959, and before long crossed paths with a kindred spirit in Paul Butterfield.  Together, they explored the ghetto blues clubs in the black neighborhoods surrounding the university campus at a time when blues giants like Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Otis Rush, Magic Sam and Howlin’ Wolf could be found playing in neighborhood joints on a weeknight. Elvin soaked it all up, gaining impromptu lessons and invaluable stage time in front of discerning audiences, and forging a fluid yet powerful guitar style of his own.

By 1963, Bishop and Butterfield were ready to graduate — not necessarily from the university, but certainly from their apprenticeship under Chicago’s blues elders.  Recruiting Howlin’ Wolf’s former rhythm section of Sam Lay on drums and Jerome Arnold on bass, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band was born. In 1965, after adding Mike Bloomfield and Mark Naftalin to the lineup, their revolutionary debut LP was released, kicking open the door for virtually all the young white blues bands that followed.

Bishop remained in the fold for three albums with the Butterfield band, including their innovative East-West release (on which Bishop and Bloomfield’s intertwining guitars helped set the stage for the Allman Brothers Band among many others who followed), before venturing out on his own. Elvin released four well-received albums on Epic Records in the early ’70s before joining Capricorn Records for a couple of LPs and experiencing his biggest pop success, the national hit “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” from his 1976 album Struttin’ My Stuff.

As popular musical trends evolved, the recording projects tapered off, but road work kept Elvin busy through the ’80s, and by the time he hooked up with Alligator Records in 1988, he was returning to his bluesy roots. And that fertile territory has been his focus ever since.

Delta Groove Productions president Randy Chortkoff has been a fan and follower of Elvin’s music through all the many phases of his career, beginning with Butterfield in the mid ’60s, so when the opportunity arose to bring Elvin into the Delta Groove fold, Chortkoff jumped at the opportunity. The result was Elvin’s Grammy-nominated 2008 CD The Blues Rolls On, a project supported by an all-star cast of blues royalty, among them B.B. King, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, George Thorogood, James Cotton, Kim Wilson, Tommy Castro, John Németh and Angela Strehli.

The Philadelphia Inquirer noted that “ . . .he’s as lively and sharp-witted as ever. No purist, he bends a variety of styles to his irrepressible personality.”

And now, with the new Delta Groove release Raisin’ Hell Revue, Bishop and crew invoke deep blues while at sail on the deep blue sea.

Jim Lauderdale to Release Reason & Rhyme

Can there be too much of a good thing?  If the question’s about collaboration between American roots music hero Jim Lauderdale and legendary lyricist Robert Hunter, the answer’s an emphatic “no!”  Marking the former’s debut on the respected Sugar Hill records label, Reason And Rhyme makes a compelling case for the continued vitality of the Lauderdale—Hunter partnership—and for Lauderdale’s unique and deeply satisfying approach to bluegrass.

“This one’s back to total bluegrass,” Lauderdale says of the collaborative follow-up to 2010’s electric Patchwork River, and so it’s no surprise that it features many of the musicians involved in previous bluegrass efforts like Could We Get Any Closer (2009) and 2007’s Grammy-winning The Bluegrass Diaries.  The close-knit crew, headed up by producer and resonator guitarist Randy Kohrs, is perfectly in tune with Lauderdale’s ‘grass-with-a-twist' sensibilities, and whether it’s a return buddy like bassist Jay Weaver or new colleague Mike Compton (mandolin), each player delivers mightily with the genre’s characteristic virtuosity and emotional fire.

“We started on this one last August,” Lauderdale notes, “right after I finished touring with Elvis Costello.  Robert and I have worked just about every way you can think of—writing in the same room, adding lyrics to music and music to lyrics—but whichever way we go, he’s the lyrics guy and I’m the music guy.  This time around, we wanted to keep the momentum from Patchwork River going; I started sending him melodies, and ten days later we had 18 songs to choose from.”
The collaboration began over a decade ago, when Lauderdale was preparing for his first joint project with bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley, and quickly bore fruit, with more than 30 songs written before the first all-collaborative album, Headed For The Hills (2004).  “I’m not surprised, but I’m always blown away how creative he is lyrically,” says the singer/songwriter, who’s busy enough that finding time to record has always been among his greatest challenges.
With 11 fresh takes on the bluegrass sound that he’s loved since he was a teenager, this latest effort presents Jim Lauderdale at his most relaxed and rooted—and with the help of one of American music’s greatest lyricists, it’s a set that offers not only deep musicality, but deep meaning and vision.  Reason And Rhyme—it’s just the right name for just the right music.

The NEW DEAL announces the end of a spectacular 12- year career

The NEW DEAL announces the end of a spectacular 12- year career with a strong run of shows that will wrap up in the fall.

It has been an amazing run for the band and we appreciate the loyal and dedicated tND fanbase across North America and Asia. Our individual lives have taken very different paths with family, living abroad, and other various projects. We have come to a point where the time and commitment that it takes to maintain our band at its best is no longer possible. As a group, we’ve never been known to go halfway, so we have decided to end things with a great run of summer and fall shows that we hope to be the best yet.

Over the next several months, TND will return to the East Coast. The final Summer and Fall 2011 shows will bring us to many of our favorite places in the US and Canada, and we’re looking forward to finishing things off in a big way.

We look forward to each and every one of these very special shows. Our fans have been fantastically devoted and supportive, and we hope to give them a final run of performances that will be truly memorable.

In addition to the summer shows and festivals already announced, we expect to add a few more dates to give as many fans as possible the opportunity to see us play together one last time.

Much love,
Darren, Dan and Jamie

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SHOWS:
May 4 - Richmond, VA - The National w/Sub wSara & Former Champions
May 5 - Philadelphia, PA - Electric Factory - OTT & Sub Swara
May 6 - Baltimore, MD - Sonar OTT & Sub Swara
May 7 - NYC - Terminal 5 - OTT & Sub Swara
June 3 - Ozark,AR - Wakarusa
June 4 - Hunter, NY - Mountain Jam
July 1 - Rothbury, MI - Electric Forest
July 2 - Denver, CO - Red Rocks
Aug 19 - Bartow, WV - Camp Barefoot
Aug 20 - Equinuk, PA - Equifunk Festival

The Chain Gang of 1974 Set To Release Wayward Fire June 21

After self-releasing two albums over the past several years and receiving early praise from the likes of SPIN, The FADER, RCRD LBL, Brooklyn Vegan, and more, The Chain Gang of 1974 is ready to break out with Wayward Fire! Set for release June 21st on Modern Art, this is an album as restless as The Chain Gang of 1974’s White Guts, an album which funneled three years of instrument-swapping, sample-splicing experience into a lean focused listen, but it melds the standout moments from that release into something wholly new and realized. In creating this new album, The Chain Gang of 1974’s genre-jumping singer/multi-instrumentalist Kamtin Mohager moved from Denver to Los Angeles, severed the ties of the two-year relationship that fueled Wayward Fire, and raised the curtain on what’s next, proving that this particular film has just begun.

On Wayward Fire, the laser-guided synth lines of “Undercover” and the rather epic “Hold On”—crowd pleasers that hint at everything from LCD Soundsystem to Talking Heads—make perfect sense alongside such shifting soundscapes as the shimmering keys of “Don’t Walk Away,” the hands-in-the-air hooks of “Taste of Heaven,” and the choruses that cut through the rain clouds in “Matter of Time.” Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Mohager balances his minor-key melodies with bold, bloodletting lyrics.

In the lead up to this release, The Chain Gang of 1974 will play select dates on the west coast with Jamaica. Dates are below.

Born in San Jose and raised in Hawaii, Mohager spent his first 13 years playing inline hockey and dreaming of being drafted by the NHL. He was surrounded by music growing up, but not the Beatles or anything of that nature – more along the lines of the Persian records his parents played all the time, leaving he and his brothers to discover everything on their own. His thoughts officially shifted to music soon after a move to Colorado, all thanks to the sinking feeling he felt after seeing the final scene in Real Genius. That’d be the part where “Everybody Wants To Rule the World” kicks in, tugging at the audience’s collective heartstrings like only the finest Reagan era records can.

The Chain Gang of 1974 Tour Dates:

Sat. April 23 – Los Angeles, CA @ Echoplex

Tue. April 26 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent w/ Jamaica

Thu. April 28 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios w/ Jamaica

Fri. April 29 – Seattle, WA @ Neumos w/ Jamaica

Sat. April 30 – Vancouver, BC @ Fortune Sound Club w/ Jamaica

Sat. June 11 – Englewood, CO @ Gothic Theatre w/ Candy Claws, Bad Weather California, Fellow Citizens

Halie Loren Releases "In Time (Hope for Healing)" to Benefit Japan Relief Fund

In many countries, the name Halie Loren is not well known.  However, in Japan, the talented Jazz/Pop singer's name is as well known and her CDs and concert tickets sell as well as Norah Jones and other popular singers in similar genres.

The events in Japan over the last few weeks have affected everyone around the world, including Loren. She has turned energies and her talent and popularity in Japan to raise money with an original song called ‘In Time (Hope for Healing)’, that in just a few days has become a major hit.  When asked about the song, Loren said, "I wrote 'In Time (Hope for Healing)' about rising above hardship and sadness, rebuilding our lives, and being even better for all we come through.  I dedicate it to Japan's people, in solidarity with them during their healing process, and in belief that they can once again feel safe and whole."

‘In Time (Hope for Healing)’, which is currently only available on Amazon.JP as a download, donates all money directly to Red Cross Japan and is already the most popular download on the site after only a few days.  Northwest-based Loren has visited Japan three times in the last seven months, most recently playing in support of her latest CD release ‘After Dark’ to sold-out audiences at the Cotton Club and the Blue Note.  She records in Japan for JVC/Victor and in the United States for White Moon Productions distributed by Burnside Distribution.  More information on Halie Loren, including an update on additional websites carrying the song, can be found at www.halieloren.com or by following her on Facebook or Twitter.

Amy Black Takes Her Shot With Sophomore Release Out Today

Singer/songwriter Amy Black releases her sophomore album entitled One Time today, March 29, 2011. After a decade of success in the business world, Black is taking a chance and following her music dreams with this new release. The rootsy collection of revealing and authentic tunes was recorded with producer, Lorne Entress (Lori McKenna, Bittertown). Available digitally, the album’s foundation is a traditional American roots sound but it’s not without a dash of rock and soul. “My goal was to create music that successfully merged the acoustic and electric instrumentation that I love,” says Black. “I tend to be drawn to a classic sound and paid my respects to some of the great music of the past when I wrote this album.”

Black worked with Entress to bring the perfect cast of characters together – top-notch musicians, including singer/songwriter Mark Erelli on vocals, guitar and lap steel and Nashville’s favorite fiddle player, Stuart Duncan. With Entress’ guidance the players have created a rich and compelling album. The music spotlights traditional roots instruments like Dobro, fiddle, mandolin, pedal steel and upright bass as well as the smooth and classic sounds of the electric guitar. “Making One Time was an incredible experience for me,” says Black. “As happy as I am to get the music out there, I’m also sad that the creation process is over. My favorite part of making this record was witnessing these incredible musicians doing what they do best. I can’t wait to get back in the studio with them again.”

In her debut album Amy Black & The Red Clay Rascals, Amy paid tribute to her favorite songwriters. With One Time, Amy’s powerful voice and presence are matched by the commanding range of her own song writing as seen in the nine originals on the album. The characters in “Molly” and “Whiskey And Wine” ache with bittersweet yearning in a world of pleasure and pain. “All My Love” simmers with seduction, while “Meet Me On The Dance Floor” is a flirty delight. “Stay”, featuring harmony vocals by Amy’s little sister Corrie Jones, swings with grown-up romance and “Run Johnny” crackles with bluesy menace.

“This album is really a tribute to my southern roots and is dedicated to my Granddad who grew up dirt poor in Alabama,” says Black. After putting himself through college, Black’s grandfather worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority for decades before pursuing his dream of starting his own business. This can-do tenacity along with a flare for storytelling, are traits passed along to Black. “He was a bit of a showman and I think I got that from him,” says Black. “He passed away during the production of the album and I’m proud to honor him with this music.”

In the album’s potent title track, "One Time," the plaintive lyric “Time for you to make a break/And show what you’re good for” could describe Black’s bold step with this new release. “I decided a few years back that it was now or never,” says Black. “I love music way too much to sit on the side lines. You only get one chance at this life, and I’m taking mine.”

For more information or to purchase the album visit www.amyblack.com.

Sid Griffin & the Coal Porters come to Western USA

Musician/writer/author/broadcaster Sid Griffin rose to fame in Los Angeles as leader of Island recording artists the Long Ryders, one of the first bands of the alt-rock era to incorporate the influences of Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Byrds. Yet in recent years, he’s made his home in London, where he leads the Coal Porters. The band has played only a limited number of American shows since their formation in the 90s.

This spring, the Coal Porters will return to the scene of the crime — Los Angeles and the West Coast — where they will play three shows in the L.A. area, one in San Francisco and a coveted spot at the Stagecoach festival on Sunday, May 1.

When the Ryders ended, native Kentuckian Griffin formed the Coal Porters, which initially had a fluid lineup, and relocated from L.A. to London, where he hooked up with Scottish stand-up comedian Neil Robert Herd (sound engineer on Wasp, Best Live Action Short Film winner at the 2004 Academy Awards). The duo started out playing electric, but quickly tired of hauling around amps and drums. As a result of a dare, the Coal Porters decided to play acoustic bluegrass versions of their material at a charity concert in London. The crowd reaction affirmed that the band had found its true calling and said goodbye to electric instrumentation forever.  En route from then to now they picked up Canadian fiddle virtuoso Carly Frey and London’s noted local attorney and doghouse bassist Andrew Stafford. In 2010 they were blessed to secure the services of one of Britain’s best young banjo players, John Breese. With this impressive lineup, the Coal Porters were ready to take on the world.

With a published author, a professional comedian and a barrister in their ranks they are the only band who can sue themselves over copyright and joke about it.

In April 2009, after traveling halfway across the globe, the Coal Porters arrived outside of Durango, Colorado, played two killer shows at the famous MeltDown Festival (Colorado’s answer to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco), and laid down the tracks to their first album in two years. Durango was recorded in two weeks in the Colorado mountains at the Kozy Tone Studio of legendary producer Ed Stasium (Ramones, Mick Jagger, Phil Spector, Smithereens, Belinda Carlisle, Jeff Healey Band, and the Long Ryders).∂ƒƒ The entire album was cut Basement Tapes style, with the same authenticity of Dylan and The Band. Everyone crowded in one room. Overdubs were few and laughter frequent.

Durango was released in January 2010. It faithfully represents the Coal Porters’ hot live act, and creates new moods of its own. This highly anticipated follow-up to 2007’s Turn the Water On, Boy! is a clear country-mile step forward, evoking the sounds of a bluegrass Clash, or a Bill Monroe for the 21st century.

David Fricke wrote in Rolling Stone, “The Coal Porters [have] been going for nearly two decades . . . and [have] evolved from a deeper mining of the country in the Ryders’ acid-tinted drive to a pure acoustic bluegrass written and played with natural — in Griffin’s case, native — flair on Durango.”

Fricke appeared with Griffin in a one-on-one interview panel at the Americana Music Festival & Conference, held in Nashville in September 2010.

Awarding Durango four stars in March 2010, MOJO magazine said: “The audio equivalent of a feel-good movie . . . recorded all in one room, with everyone as much intent on capturing the vibes as much as the undoubted quality of the music . . . gorgeous.”

Blurt noted, “Seven albums on, the Coal Porters have a reputation they can bank on. And with Durango this durable bunch has successfully added even more fuel to their fire.”

The Coal Porters are five musicians from four different parts of the planet who came together as an incredibly powerful fusion of talent, the world’s first “alt-bluegrass” act.

“For all the satisfaction of success in Europe and becoming the UK’s leading ‘alt-bluegrass’ ensemble,” says Griffin, “there is nothing to compare to the Coal Porters heading for my musical home in California. My days in Los Angeles with the Long Ryders were so wonderful and I was so blessed with so many friends that it is high time I took the band to the left coast to show ’em all what we can do. I am extremely proud of my time in the Golden State and extremely proud of the music my Coal Porters are making right now so to put the two together is gonna be a true, true week to remember.”

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The Spring 2010 West Coast Tour

Fri., April 29  SAN FRANCISCO, CA Hotel Crescent/Burrit Room Lounge
Sun., May 1  INDIO, CA Stagecoach Festival (3 p.m. stage time)
Mon., May 2  LOS ANGELES/CULVER CITY, CA The Cinema Bar
Tues., May 3  LOS ANGELES/ALTADENA, CA The Coffee Gallery
Wed., May 4  LOS ANGELES/ECHO PARK, CA Taix, 321 Lounge

Jam Stampede @ Brooklyn Bowl w/ Mark & Kenny

The Jam Stampede will perform at their ongoing Dead Center event at Brooklyn Bowl on April 19, 2011. We were too excited to wait another day until 4/20 for this show so we are performing on 4/19.

For the first time Mark Karan (Jemimah Puddleduck, Ratdog) will be joining us for the festivities and Kenny Brooks (Alphabet Soup, Ratdog) will join us again after having such a good time last October.

With the help of our good friends Mark and Kenny we will again revisit some of the Grateful Dead lore and explore some new ground with the tunes through the expression of these two great instrumentalists who played together in RatDog and have put their own historic stamp on the music.

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Brooklyn Bowl

61 Wythe Avenue

Brooklyn, NU

4/19/2011 @ 8PM

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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