Sheryl Crow - Sheryl Crow (A&M Records): Sheryl Crow can sing. She can croon; she can melt you like an old lounge singer; she can make you get up and dance. All this on her second CD, with its radio hit "If It Makes You Happy." Crow wrote or co-wrote all 13 songs, including the controversial "Love Is a Good Thing," prompting Wal-Mart to refuse to sell her CD. (The song refers to children who kill one another with guns bought at the store.) With an able band, she plays guitar, bass, keyboard, and harmonium - proving she knows what she's doing.
- Liz Brown
Arvo Part - Litany
(ECM New Series): The popular Estonian composer Arvo Part has become a patriarch of international music. His structurally spare yet emotionally powerful approach to musical material manages to sound richly contemporary while often evoking the most traditional of religious messages. His recent "Litany" takes its text from 24 short prayers, one for each hour of the day, written by a 4th-century monk and intoned here by solo and choral voices whose purity of tone fully matches the devotional intensity of their subject. Tonu Kaljuste conducts the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra.
- David Sterritt
Various artists - Everybody Slides, Vol. 2 (Rykodisc): The second disc in Rykodisc's slide-guitar series covers more ground than the first. After David Lindley shows us the Middle East, we take an electric tour of the American South. We hear from Mike Auldridge and David Bromberg, as we travel from Nashville to New Orleans. We then spend three acoustic tracks in the Mississippi delta with John Hammond, Rory Block, and Bob Brozman. After Amos Garret shows us Hawaii and his uncanny pseudo-slide technique, we finish beautifully with the relaxing "Whispering Pines" of Colin Linden.
- Jef Scoville