That’s right. The little Alaskan girl with a guitar who stole our hearts – and then alienated her audience when her pure and truthful voice that stood apart in the landscape of mainstream commercial music leaned toward the status quo – is back after a few years of burnout and recovery.
On her latest enhanced CD (just pop it in your CD-ROM drive – there’s a video and the pictures from the liner notes!) Jewel co-produces alongside Christian rocker and studio guitarist Dann Huff, whose production credits include Shania Twain, Celine Dion and Megadeath, among others. On many of the tracks Huff’s electric guitar ornamentation of Jewel’s folky strumming reflects his roots as a Nashville studio session man. While slide guitar and country licks don’t define the album, they definitely toss their weight around. Also contributing to the album, Rick Nowells (producer and keyboardist whose recent work has included Madonna’s “Ray of Light”) co-wrote some of the album’s poignant pop/garbage music.
While it seems at first glance that a pop sensibility has eaten up and regurgitated another talent for blind-baby-bird-public consumption, there are some really great tracks hidden in This Way.
The live acoustic recording of “Grey Matter” brings us Jewel at her best, a rich and sweet voice with quiet yet thoughtful guitar accompaniment. On “Jesus Loves You” and “The New Wild West,” we get very articulate attacks on the morals of the American public and their inability to civilize themselves. “Serve The Ego” is a pop marriage of heavy rock and eastern percussion over which Jewel laments how people chase superficial goals.
It’s a long shot, but I think Jewel still has a chance of filling de la Rocha’s empty slot in the Rage lineup.