Friday evening – time to go to church with Sheryl Crow. The church in question being the chapel she built in the grounds of her Nashville home, all the wood and stained glass sourced via eBay.
“When I bought this property, I thought it would be nice to have a space that has nothing to do with work – just a quiet and sacred place to gather,” she has explained, admitting that her two adopted sons like to disrupt the silence by ringing its bell..
It certainly made for a striking setting for her The Songs and The Stories livestream, a generous solo session in which Crow explored her 30-year back catalogue – 11 studio and three live albums whose combined sales top 50 million.
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Her fabulous guitar collection was on show, as was her penchant for religious art and ephemera. When, toward the end of the concert, she moved to her Hammond for “Story of Everything”, Crow – a self-described Christian – was framed by serried ranks of Madonnas, angels, a saint or two, and a statue of Christ in his crown of thorns.
As the Missouri-born daughter of a piano teacher who went on to study music education and then become an elementary school music teacher, it’s no surprise that Crow has spent lockdown practising. In the process she rediscovered the “girl music geek” within, using a pedalboard for the first time.
While she didn’t want anyone to think she’s Ed Sheeran, there was lots of live looping which is fascinating to watch in close-up: performing her celebrated #MeToo rap “The Na-Na Song”, Crow first laid down the distinctive bass riff and then swapped the bass guitar for one her many signature Gibson Southern Jumbos.
The show opened with the singer at the piano for “Run, Baby, Run” from her Tuesday Night Music Club debut, but Crow was mostly on guitar, her right foot busy on a stomp box, driving the rhythm. Occasionally she played a harmonica.
There’s no doubting that she’s a skilled player, and the upside of livestreaming is the ability to scrutinise the chord progressions and fingerpicking (mostly without plectra in Crow’s case).
“Riverwide”, inspired by Walt Whitman poetry and “Joni Mitchell’s crazy tunings”, was powerful, the open B tuning as much traditional Appalachia as Mitchell. From the same Globe Sessions came “My Favorite Mistake” and “Crash and Burn”, on which Crow was joined by Audley Freed, his Fender wailing like a banshee behind her own delicately picked acoustic.
She finished where she had begun, at the piano, with “Redemption Day”, recalling the honour of having Johnny Cash record the song on his last album, and “I Shall Believe”, a wonderful bluesy-gospel finale. And with that universal prayer from her debut album, she exited the chapel to the sound of birdsong and a passing jet.