**** SHERYL CROW "The Globe Sessions" A&M
Given her knack for canny, infectious melodies and sometimes deceptively breezy lyrics, it has been tempting to view Crow more as a gifted craftswoman than as a songwriter of great depth. But at their core, her hummable tunes about hard-luck lovers and drifters have dealt honestly and intelligently with the often daunting struggle to understand and learn from the choices we make, in relationships and life.
On her new album, the singer addresses these concerns more intimately than ever before. Forgoing her usual narrative technique for a more confessional approach--and continuing to rely less and less on collaborators--Crow lends her husky, world-wise mezzo to poignant, strikingly personal accounts of troubled and failed love affairs.
Fortunately, Crow is able to draw inspiration from pain without wallowing in it. The catchy single "My Favorite Mistake" is a gracefully bittersweet ode to a wayward ex-beau, while on "It Don't Hurt"--which builds to a piercing guitar-rock climax reminiscent of "Rumours"-era Fleetwood Mac--Crow confronts abandonment with her wry sense of humor intact.
Some numbers, such as the eerily urgent "Am I Getting Through (Part 1 & 2)" and the moody, violin-laced "Riverside," find Crow spicing her usual rootsy sound with exotic and bracing accents. Elsewhere, as on the haunting "The Difficult Kind," Crow's radiant song craft and emotional delivery make a simple, classic-rock-inspired arrangement sound fresh.
Not all of these songs are as immediately accessible as the hits from Crow's feisty debut, 1993's "Tuesday Night Music Club," or her buoyantly rocking sophomore effort, 1996's "Sheryl Crow." But they grow and linger with the spirit of a vital artist pushing herself to evolve. "Most people give up before they happen," she sings on the pensive "Maybe That's Something." Clearly, Crow is the happening kind.