The peak of Jewel‘s popularity came early on in her career at the height of her debut album Pieces Of You, when radio remixes of You Were Meant For Me and Foolish Games were topping the charts. In the 20 years since, Jewel put out several more folk-pop albums, a pop record, club remixes, and recorded a pair of country records, a pair of holiday albums and a pair of children’s albums. It’s almost strange to think that it has taken two decades for Jewel to do another album that ventures close to the one that made her famous that most associate with her.
Picking Up The Pieces, in essence, serves as a bookend to Pieces Of You. Not exactly a re-creation, as moments in this record sonically resemble Spirit, Pieces‘ follow-up, but it is a true example of a musician returning to her roots. Most of the album is Jewel, her guitar, and her gentle yet biting poetry that has done more for her than anything else she’s done in the time between.
It’s a welcome return to familiar territory as the album starts with a set of songs that could have come from that era. In fact, some of them do. A Boy Needs A Bike and Everything Breaks are both longtime staples at Jewel’s shows, the latter previously recorded as a b-side in 1998 for the Foolish Games single.
While the album’s title is a nod to her first, it’s also a reflection of the singer’s last few years. She had a child and went through a divorce, and the lyrics, in all their poetic glory, depict those experiences in a way only Jewel can. At times she’s angry, self-blaming, or reckless. Nicotine Love, with its booming cello, is sexual, distant, and careless. It Doesn’t Hurt Right Now is on the aftermath of unfaithfulness. Carnivore is the lesson learned.
The record has its ups and downs, but again, like Pieces of You, its strongest quality is its authenticity, even when some songs seem to wear out their welcome. It Doesn’t Hurt Right Now is slamming following four songs of familiarity with guest Rodney Crowell‘s calming yet assertive vocals, while Pretty Faced Fool feels like a leftover from her country era. But then there’s the ode to her father and grandmother on the autobiographical My Father’s Daughter, with Dolly Parton killing it on a verse, and everything is made right.
Picking Up The Pieces is classic Jewel and the return to form so many acts claim at some point in their career that she actually delivers. It’s refreshing that even after her forays into pop, dance and country, she’s still not only able, but willing to return to where it all started and is still doing it as well, if not better, than she did in the beginning.
1. Love Used To Be
2. A Boy Needs A Bike
3. Everything Breaks
4. Family Tree
5. It Doesn’t Hurt Right Now [featuring Rodney Crowell]
6. His Pleasure Is My Pain
7. Here When Gone
8. The Shape Of You
9. Plain Jane
10. Pretty Faced Fool
11. Nicotine Love
13. My Father’s Daughter [featuring Dolly Parton]