Sherryl Crow is a country singer/songwriter from Kennet, Missouri. Her seven times platinum, 1993 debut, Thursday Night Music Club rocketed to her to the very top of a country music boom which lasted throughout the 90’s and spawned the careers of fellow superstars like Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson. In contrast to her fellow 90’s country stars, however, Crow’s music toes the line between pop and country in a way which has allowed her to find success with fans across the spectrum. This success has lead to legendary status over her ten album career, and the singer has announced that her eleventh LP, Threads, will be her final release. So, is it a worthy swan song? Unfortunately, the record is a bit of a mix.
Crow is, admirably, quite ambitious on this album. Tracks like “Cross Creek Road,” and “Still the Good Old Days,” feature unique chord progressions and surprising instrumental styles which are certainly a treat on such a long LP. It doesn’t work every time as there are definitely a handful of awkward moments, but for the eleventh release in Crow’s discography, it’s extremely impressive to hear her stepping out of her comfort zone in such a daring way.
Additionally, the guitar work on this album is excellent! Much of this comes in the form of features from the likes of artists like Eric Clapton who’s solo on “Beware of Darkness,” is easily the best on the entire project. But tracks like the opener, “Prove You Wrong,” have fantastic leads played by guest guitarists like Joe Walsh and Vince Gill who, in addition to featuring on their own tracks, pop up all over the record on guitar.
Crow also dives headlong into a heavily blues-influenced sound which works far better than one would expect. “Everything is Broken,” features Jason Isbell wonderfully with an excellent guitar riff and strong vocal performance while “Border Lord,” sees the legendary Kris Kristofferson joining Crow for one of the most raucous cuts on the album.
The albums key selling point, though, is the seriously massive list of features, which covers every single one of the 17 tracks. From Mavis Staples and Bonnie Raitt’s electrifying chemistry on “Live Wire,” to Chris Stapleton’s soulful lead on “Tell Me When It’s Over,” or even Johnny Cash’s interesting, posthumous appearance on “Redemption Day,” this record is a who’s who of iconic country and Americana artists. The best of these are, without a doubt, Willie Nelson’s heartfelt vocal on “Lonely Alone,” and the absolutely fantastic harmony work from Emmylou Harris on my favorite track, “Nobody’s Perfect.”
Unfortunately, several features don’t work out quite so well. Gary Clark Jr.’s appearance on “Story of Everything,” and St. Vincent’s collaboration on “Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You,” are especially egregious, but they betray an issue which plagues the entire album: Sheryl Crow doesn’t seem to have a grasp on how to incorporate features. A great feature melds the sound of the guest artist while remaining true to the sound of the album and the main artist. This album, on the other hand, feels like a compilation of tracks by other artists which feature Sheryl Crow. Nearly every guest appearance takes over the sound and writing entirely and when the sound doesn’t fit Crow’s style, as is the case in the aforementioned cuts which are nearly rap/hip-hop tracks, Crow goes along with it anyway.
Beyond this, there are some serious issues with the production here. A Track like the aptly named “The Worst,” is a perfect example of this poor production, though this is yet another problem that runs throughout the entire runtime. The most prevalent problems come in the form of a very hissy mix and just awful percussion throughout, though the occasional annoying vocal effect as in “Flying Blind,” is thrown in for good measure.
Beyond this, the pacing can be a bit frustrating as nearly every track is roughly the same length and many of them sound extremely similar. Near the end, tracks like “Don’t,” and the closer, “For the Sake of Love,” do little to keep a listener enticed. This isn’t a massive issue as most of the tracks, on their own, aren’t necessarily boring, but when an album runs nearly 75 minutes, the nondescript cuts start to add up.
All in all, Threads is certainly enjoyable at times. The goal of the LP seems to be to celebrate Crow’s career with a large collection of impressive features and strong writing and while several tracks achieve this, many others don’t.
Threads is an otherwise enjoyable project which is dragged down by poor pacing, weak production, and an utter lack of cohesion.