Sheryl Crow’s simple style belies her great skill at playing for the song and providing rhythmic support. Stuart Ryan gets strumming.
Sheryl Crow is one of the finest singersongwriters of recent decades. Stuart Ryan looks at her acoustic accompaniment style.
This month’s artist is a veritable icon of the American rock scene. Although Sheryl Crow may not be renowned as a guitarist she is another fine example of the guitarist-songwriter for whom the acoustic guitar is at the heart of what they do. Crow has had a long and astonishing career within the music industry starting way before the explosion of her own stardom in the ’90s.
Crow was born into a musical family in Kennett, Missouri on February 11th, 1962. She started her working life as a school music teacher but by the mid-1980s she was working as a session vocalist at a small studio producing jingles. The world of jingles may seem like an inauspicious start but she was working on adverts for huge corporations that reached a wide audience (and also paid very well, by her own admission). The late 1980s saw her become an A-list session and touring vocalist and many people are not aware that prior to fame under her own name she was a featured backing vocalist for Michael Jackson on his huge Bad world tour and studio recording. Further session jobs saw her work alongside legends like Stevie Wonder and Don Henley among many others, so launching her own solo career was merely a matter of time.
Solo stardom arrived with the release of her debut album, Tuesday Night Music Club in 1993. A slow burner to begin with, the album yielded the worldwide smash All I Wanna Do and her solo career was well and truly under way. Crow’s music is a classic blend of pop, rock, folk and Americana with a bluesy, riff-based element thrown in. As with many artists of this style she typically uses the acoustic guitar as a rhythmic tool supplying a supporting foundation to the bass and drums, while a Tele or Strat sounds the hook. However, there are also times when her acoustic guitar comes to the fore - for instance A Change Would Do You Good where the acoustic leads the track.
As simple as the guitar style of an artist like Sheryl Crow can seem she is a textbook lesson in finding the right acoustic part for the track, even if just strumming open chords and keeping a strong, consistent rhythm in place. Play along with this month’s track and keep an eye on your timing - ask yourself, are you as ‘in the pocket’ as you need to be?
many people are not aware that crow was featured backing vocalist on michael jackson’s ‘bad’ tour
NEXT MONTH Stuart looks at the distinctive acoustic style of Richard Thompson
Sheryl Crow with her signature Gibson Southern Jumbo acoustic
Crow’s most prized acoustic guitar is her 1962 Gibson Southern Jumbo, an instrument replicated for the Sheryl Crow signature model, which is basically a cross between a J-45 and a Hummingbird. Any larger bodied acoustic will do the trick here, as you want something with volume and depth to make your strumming parts loud and punchy. I recorded this on a similar Gibson J-35 Collector’s edition.