- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2002

LOS ANGELES — An old English verse suggests that fate can be determined by the number of crows seen together: "One for sorrow, two for joy " and so on for health, wealth, marriage, birth and death.

Counting Crows whose music is devoted to the bittersweet randomness of life derived its name from that legend.

In the group's latest album, "Hard Candy," the musicians continue to dwell on nostalgia and heartbreak but with an added emphasis on pop brevity.

"The album is about memory in a lot of ways," says singer-songwriter Adam Duritz, known for his agony-infused vocals and distinctive tuft of dreadlocks. "It's about life going past you. It's about things that come to mean something to you and then slip away."

The title track was written after Mr. Duritz spent a lonely day looking through drawers of old photographs.

"On certain Sundays in November/ When the weather bothers me/ I empty drawers of other summers/ Where my shadows used to be," the song begins.

"It stands for the idea of something that's really sweet and really hard," Mr. Duritz says. "Even the best day you've ever had in your life say you're 14 years old and this girl kisses you it's still sad because it's not here."

The singer and his six band mates have just finished taping a rendition of "Hard Candy" and their single "American Girls" for a segment of Fox Sports Network's "Best Damn Sports Show Period." Rehearsing in the sun, they seem weary from opening the Who concert at the Hollywood Bowl the night before, and there is still more than a year of their own tour to come.

"It's tough to stay on the road," says Mr. Duritz, 37. "It's tough to stay afloat in the water, too, but you wouldn't want to go with the alternative."

This is the start of Counting Crows' promotional blitz for "Hard Candy," and the players hope to repeat the success of their 1993 debut album, "August & Everything After," which has sold about 5.6 million copies and produced the hits "Mr. Jones" and "Round Here."

Two follow-up studio albums 1996's grunge-twisted "Recovering the Satellites" and 1999's improvisational "This Desert Life" sold only 2.2 million and 1.1 million respectively, according to music tracker Nielsen SoundScan.

The bohemian rock group started in San Francisco in the early 1990s, with Mr. Duritz using his unabashedly romantic and moody songwriting to lead the band like a lovesick troubadour. His music extolls beautiful, sad-eyed women and often reveals intimate details of his insomnia, bouts of melancholy and shattered relationships.

"What brings me down now is love/ because I can never get enough," he sings on the new album's song "Goodnight L.A."

"You wouldn't want to be my girlfriend and have a song written about you It usually means things have gone wrong," Mr. Duritz says with a laugh. "But on the other hand, after the fact, a song is proof positive that what we had meant something."

Though he is known for creating long mood pieces, Mr. Duritz says he tried to tighten his style for "Hard Candy" on the advice of Paul McCartney, who suggested that he temper his poetry with pop.

Unlike groups such as R.E.M. and Radiohead, which saw some of their fan bases erode after releasing experimental albums, Counting Crows decided that while their new songs may be shorter and more melodic, their introspective, folk-rock style should remain the same.

"I'm not sure what the fans will expect or won't expect, but it's not a radical departure," says David Immergluck, the band's newest member and third guitarist.

The direction of the band is determined mostly by Mr. Duritz, who writes almost all the material.

Members of Counting Crows say they record their best music in homes, not traditional studios. They usually rent a large house, move in together and lay down recordings over the course of about eight months.

This time, the group alternated between recording for several weeks and touring for several weeks, hoping to draw some concert energy into the private sessions.

"That really focused the time we had, so there was no 'not getting something,'" says guitarist Dan Vickery, who has been with the group since "Recovering the Satellites." "It really pushed us in a good way."

The music for "Hard Candy" became so full of reminiscence, Mr. Duritz says, because he lived the previous year "like a hermit," shying away from others and thinking about days long past.

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