Album of the Week: Jewel's This Way

I am of the opinion Jewel made her best albums at the turn of the new millennium. Jewel's first two records (Pieces of You and Spirit) have as many stumbling blocks as successes, which brings me to her third. Released in 2001, Jewel's This Way is the best of career. (It is also the beginning of a fruitful creative period she carried through her next project, but we'll talk about 0304  next week.) This Way drops some of the pretenses heard on the lovely but lofty Spirit while balancing that record's sheen with the down-home quirkiness many listeners find charming about Jewel. Not to mention, with her third release, Jewel mastered pop song structure. Each track here has a strong, hooky chorus and a guitar-driven production to keep it going, as we hear on the comedic "Everybody Needs Someone Sometime," the soft-rock character sketch, "Do You Want to Play," and the cheeky "Love Me Just Leave Me Alone." Many of the songs also play with an on-the-road Americana theme that grounds the album, beginning with the first track and lead single "Standing Still,"  through "Till We Run Out of Road" and "Cleveland," and concluding with the final track, "The New Wild West." Jewel handles all of this material with charisma, as well as the album's satire ("Jesus Loves You," "Serve the Ego") and gentle works ("Break Me," the title track).  With This Way, Jewel proved the flexibility of her skill, moving from the humorous to the earnest, as an expert songwriter and performer. It is a record worth revisiting.

No comments: