Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, is refusing to carry Sheryl Crow's upcoming album, because one song says the chain sells guns to kids. Today, an infuriated A&M Records--Crow's label--called the decision "very wrong," saying Wal-Mart chose "guns over music."

While Wal-Mart has banned albums before that don't conform to its wholesome standards, this is the first time it has refused to stock a record with lyrics criticizing the store.

The offending lyrics come from "Love is a Good Thing," co-written by Crow and Tad Wadhams: "Watch out sister/Watch out brother/Watch our children as they kill each other/with a gun they bought at the Wal-Mart discount stores." (See end of story)

"Wal-Mart believes this is an unfair, untrue and totally irresponsible comment," said company spokesman Dale Ingram. Ingram said the song insults both the chain--which he said strictly prohibits the selling of guns to minors--and employees who work with children's charities.

Guns are a touchy subject for Wal-Mart. The company has been sued three times in the past four years after guns it sold were used in crimes, including a suit involving two minors who, it was charged, bought bullets at a Wal-Mart store, then murdered a man. A judge dismissed that lawsuit in 1992 on the grounds that Wal-Mart could not have known the ammunition would be used criminally. The company has tightened up some of its sales practices in recent years.

Nevertheless, A&M Chairman Al Cafaro seems poised for a fight. "Every day in America, children are dying by guns bought legally. This is a fact...Sheryl's responsibility as an artist is to reveal the truth, and it is our responsibility as a record company to defend her ability to do so...I believe that Wal-Mart's decision is wrong, very wrong," Cafaro said.

Discount chains like Wal-Mart now sell more albums than established music stores, and A&M executives fear the ban could cost Crow 400,000 in sales. In some rural areas, Wal-Mart is the dominant record retailer: Crow told A&M last week that she was worried that her friends and family in Missouri would not be able to buy the album if Wal-Mart didn't stock it, the Los Angeles Times reported today.

Wal-Mart has not made a decision on whether to sell singles from the album.

Crow's eponymous album is the follow-up to her Grammy-winning, multi-platinum debut, Tuesday Night Music Club. Sheryl Crow is set to be released September 24.

Audio Clip: Sheryl Crow, "Love is a Good Thing"
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