Published Sep 11, 2015If you're looking for a heavy dose of '90s throwback angst, look no farther than Jewel's latest release, Picking up the Pieces (out on Sugar Hill Records September 11th). And it's not just the subtle reference to her debut, 15-times-platinum record, 1995's Pieces of You (which spawned the massive hits "Who Will Save Your Soul?" "Foolish Games" and "You Were Meant for Me" and established Jewel as the boho, introspective poet who once lived out of a van in Alaska).
It's the earnest lyrics, the dramatic spoken-word-esque interludes, and that sort-of laid-back coffee-shop folk sound synonymous with TV shows like Friends and Dawson's Creek, but the retro folk isn't all bad — it's perhaps a welcome return to Jewel's roots, especially as she's morphed so dramatically over the years from acoustic folk, to country, to pop, to yodeling, and to eventual collegiate a cappella choir judge.
The album kicks off with "Love Used to Be," a prime example of the emotiveness we've come to expect from Jewel, with verbose lyrics like "immortality delivered by the double helix" and with those aforementioned spoken-word interludes. There's the telltale Jewel fingerpicking guitar and the half-straight, half-vibrato vocals she's well known for.
It's not until about the eighth track ("The Shape of You") that the rawness and earnestness plateau and start to work to her advantage. "Plain Jane" picks things up a notch with some percussion and more pop-friendly melodies. Another gem includes "My Father's Daughter," a stunning duet with Dolly Parton (one that will likely take the adult contemporary charts by storm). And the last track, "Mercy," weaves in some strong country melodies and classic heartbreak without the cliché.
In the end, Jewel's Picking up the Pieces is all about finding the diamonds in the rough. They're there — you just gotta dig a bit. (Sugar Hill)