New Recordings: Sheryl Crow, Mark Lanegan, Elton John
**** Excellent, *** Good, ** Fair, * Poor
Feels Like Home
(Warner Nashville ***)
In this affecting and often authentic genre-jumper, Crow loads up on country music's most reliable staple: the sentimental story song. Among the poignant homilies: "Homecoming Queen" and "Waterproof Mascara" (lyric: "It won't run like his daddy did"). Crow even channels a little Dolly Parton for the catchy "Homesick." The Chesneyian three-sheets waltz "Easy" has already scaled the country charts, and the Okie whomp "Shotgun" should also make the climb. Lovely and limpid, Feels Like Home won't rock your world, but that's sort of the point.
- David Hiltbrand
(Vagrant ** 1/2)
Mark Lanegan possesses one of the most commanding, eerie voices in rock. It's deep, dark, and sinister, capable of subtle weariness and forceful anger. He's fronted great rock bands, including Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age; he's a frequent collaborator who released three excellent albums with Isobel Campbell and has sat in with Soulsavers and Moby.
Following last year's solo Blues Funeral, and this year's Black Pudding (a collaboration with British blues guitarist Duke Garwood) comes Imitations, Lanegan's second collection of covers. It's an odd mix of prerock standards such as "Mack the Knife" and "Autumn Leaves" (one of three songs here associated with Andy Williams) and contemporary compositions from writers such as newcomer Chelsea Wolfe and the Afghan Whigs' Greg Dulli. These are slow, deliberate ballads, mostly acoustic, some with grand string arrangements, but Lanegan's grave delivery often works against them, and he seems particularly strained amid the elaborate orchestrations of John Cale's "I'm Not The Loving Kind" and Nick Cave's "Brompton Oratory."
- Steve Klinge
The Diving Board
Look out below! Sir Elton wobbles off the Diving Board, his first new release in seven years. From the stiff, old-timey opening salvo, "Oceans Away," to the ghastly gospel of "Take This Dirty Water" this collection never finds its stride. It's difficult to tell what era John was shooting for with producer T Bone Burnett. Suffice it to say this is more parlor music than pop. Even the livelier tunes, such as "The Ballad of Blind Tom" end up sounding vacant, like background music in a movie scene. Falling, not diving.
- David Hiltbrand
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SOURCE: SoundScan (based on purchase data from Philadelphia and Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester, Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties). Billboard Magazine 9/28/13 © 2013
In Stores Tuesday
Drake, Nothing Was the Same;
Buried Beds, In Spirit;
Sting, The Last Ship;
Kings of Leon, Mechanical Bull