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Jewel


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Contemporary folk, folk/rock, mainstream pop

Status:

Most recent release, Picking Up The Pieces (2015)

See also:

Jewel's site

Jewel fan email list page

Comparisons:

At any one time Jewel can sound like almost anyone: she is a magpie and picks up bits of a lot of people's styles, all the way from Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell to Ella Fitzgerald and now Britney Spears

Covers/own material:

Mostly own, some co-writing with friends, occasional covers

General comments:

From 1994: Great songwriter, great singer, great guitar player. She's somewhat folky, a little bit country, but also rock, blues, and even a little bit of a big band song. She writes all her own material.
     Okay folks—here is a summary about what I know about Jewel. Most of this information is what I've gathered from the stories she herself tells during her performances, and from some of the articles in the local press.
     Jewel is 20 years old. She currently lives in San Diego. She started playing guitar in a local coffee house about two years ago, when she got fired from her waitress job for talking too much, and then fired from a computer job for talking too much.
     She decided she was sick of living her life this way in dead-end jobs and that she wanted to make it as a singer.
     So she found a coffee house called the Inner Change, in Pacific Beach (a part of San Diego), and started playing every Thursday night. At first no one came, but gradually people started coming until the place was overflowing, she was charging $4.00 cover, she was doing two shows every Thursday night, and they were turning people away.
     Somewhere around this time, record company execs started to come investigate what the big deal was. She ended up being signed by Atlantic Records. At the time she was signed, she was living in a VW Van, eating carrot sticks and peanut butter, while being whisked away in limos and taken to fancy dinners in New York for the New Music Showcase, and the like.
     I believe she has a 5-album deal with Atlantic—pretty amazing for someone with no real experience. But I don't remember where I heard this so don't quote me on it.
     When Jewel performs, its usually just her and her guitar, though I've also seen her perform with Steve Poltz, one of the two main members of the Rugburns, another local San Diego band that have national distribution (but not a major label deal). The musicians on the album reportedly include members of Neil Young's band, the Crazy Gators, and Charlotte Caffey of the Go-Go's. From hearing "Who Will Save Your Soul", I'd personally say that the arrangements are passable—but aren't going to be the thing that sell you on her. She herself has only been playing guitar for about 3 years (so she says), though she's been singing for quite a while. When she was young she used to sing with her family in a show they did for tourists in Alaska. She grew up on a 400-acre homestead in Homer, Alaska.
     She went to a private music school in Michigan for a couple of years, starting when she was 16. From what she says, she went to sing blues, but ended up singing opera.
     Some of her big influences range from performers like Bob Dylan, John Prine, Ella Fitzgerald, and Yma Sumac. The only cover song she does is "Behind the Wall" by Tracy Chapman—and if you weren't looking at her you would swear it was Tracy.
     Her songs range from the poetic, to the humorous, to the downright silly.
     It's hard to say what her style is because she really varies. Some songs remind me of something Juliana Hatfield would do—others remind me more of something Rickie Lee Jones might do. Her voice is incredibly versatile and she has incredible pitch and range.
     She has a certain naïveté and innocence that is charming, but she's also very worldly and wise. She's very young—she acts young, she looks young, but when she picks up her guitar and opens her mouth, you'd never know she was only 20. It's hard to believe that she can write the songs she does at such a young age. For example in "Painters", we hear the story of couple who lived their lives as if it were a painting, "they thought blueprints were too sad so they made them yellow."
     In "She Cries", we hear the story of a woman who's cheating on her husband, wondering why she's crying as she washes her hands in the sink.
     Certain songs can make the audience rather uncomfortable, as in "Pieces of You", where she talks about the different prejudices the world has, against ugly girls, pretty girls, faggots and jews (her words—not mine by the way). "Daddy" is also a song that can make the audience a little uncomfortable.
     "The Morning Song" is a simple sweet love song about wanting to jump back in bed with the one you love and stay there all day.
     "Sometimes It Be That Way" is a song written in the spirit of Bob Dylan, and is an incredible song that lists about 500 reasons why she's sorry a relationship ended including "I'm sorry that Jesus died for my sins, and I swear to God it won't happen again," and "I'm sorry that I never had a match, to start a fire big enough for your heart to catch."
     "My Own Private God's Gift to Women" is a hilarious song about the way men try to pick up women (like sticking out their tongues lewdly).
     "Who Will Save Your Souls" and "Little Sister" deal with the problems of society and how we feed ourselves with junk food and addictions rather than nourishing our spirits and seeking to create beauty in the world.
     These are just a few of many, many songs she's written. Every time I've seen her she's added a few more to her repertoire.
     She also yodels faster than anyone I've ever heard (not that I've heard that many people try!), and sings everything from a blues number she wrote for her dentist after having her wisdom teeth pulled called "Toothless Valentine", to a Swedish lullaby.
     Her outlook on life may be a little optimistic, naïve and unrealistic, but at such a young age she's entitled to it. I really wish her the best of success—because, as she's sure to tell you if you ever see her perform, she truly loves her life, and is truly grateful for being able to do what she loves and make a living at it. (1995, jjhanson@att.net)

It was all a time and a place thing. I think anyone who found Jewel through her live shows within the first year of her album coming out will always have a soft spot for her.
     Jewel's Internet fan base almost definitely started on the ecto list, when I saw her do a 15-minute set as one of 2 or 3 openers for Iris Dement (wow, I just looked that up and it was almost exactly 5 years ago... 8/23/93). After that, Jeff Hanson and I saw her (almost) weekly in a coffeehouse in San Diego for the next year. At that time, she had written over 100 songs, played 3-hour sets, and was amazing to see. We talked her up and sent out a lot of bootlegs from those shows, and a fan base started to build here, all before she was even signed.
     Then the record was recorded, and nothing happened. She started out on her residency tour, where she played 4 shows a month in a given city. This was pretty tough work, since she would do simultaneous residencies in places like DC, NYC, Philly, cycling between the cities for the month. I think everyone who saw her at that point became a fan.
     And part of the appeal was that she was this raw, unfinished talent. She had so much in her, and it wasn't clear where it would go. It certainly never seemed like she'd become immensely popular. I don't think anyone at the time thought she could be sold and marketed to such a huge audience.
     I've probably only listened to her album 4 or 5 times, and find it to be pretty mediocre. I'd never have become a fan if all I had to go on was the fact that someone handed me that album. But I can still here what thrilled me in all those early tapes. (Plus, I listen to the radio so little that I never get burnt out on radio-heavy songs.)
     One thing I do respect her for is the connections she has kept with her fan base. And I'm certainly not ready to write her off yet. I do think it would have been dramatically more beneficial for her as a musician to have achieved a much more gradual success, though. Then we'd have had the chance to see her develop as a musician, rather than as a media figure.
     Sometimes Jewel does seem simplistic and overly earnest. Sometimes she is just direct, which is not always the same. But some of her stuff was more complex, too.
     Pieces of You didn't show up her fun aspects at all. It's intentionally a serious album. She explicitly said she didn't want to be known as the girl who yodels (though it seems like she was for a while), or to have a silly song catch on and that be exclusively what she was known for. So she didn't put those songs on her debut.
     I've always said I would never have been a Jewel fan if it were just for Pieces of You. I've probably only listened to that album 5 or 6 times, but have spent many hours listening to wonderful live tapes. And while "Hands" seemed a really weak song the one time I heard it on the radio (and the voice sounded remarkably like Nanci Griffith to me, though not the song), I know many of the other songs on the album from tapes, and some of them are quite good. (1998)
     For me, some of the moments that are the most amazing of Jewel's, and the ones that touch me the most, seem relatively divorced to the lyrics. Just the way she sings "Aaaangel" on "Angel Needs A Ride", is so full of hope and promise, and the despair in the lines "Been Down So Long", the way she draws out all those "oh"s. Her voice is amazingly versatile. All of my favorite songs dip into her lower register, and are imbued with so much emotion. One of the things that totally amazed me seeing Jewel in the early days, was that some of her songs were written and sung far beyond what it seemed like this 19-year-old surfer girl should know about. All the little-girl sweet stuff came across more as an aside, another angle that made up the whole, like all the silliness that balanced the earnestness. I used to provide tapes of Jewel from her coffeehouse days to people to prove those points, and pretty much everyone on ecto who was a fan from the earliest times prefers those tapes over the album material that you've heard. But it gets kind of old to try to convince people that there is more there. Especially since, barring knowing people in the know, you are stuck with what the record companies have put out there, which is such a small part of the picture. sigh. Hmmmm, I think I was raving for a bit.
     The Jewel list actually spun out of ecto, so there are a lot of really old-time Jewel fans here (predating the success of Pieces of You), and a lot of them gave up with Spirit and "Hands". I do agree Jewel can rock if she wants to. And "Down So Long" on the album is only a vague hint of that. She went much further, not on that song, but on ones I didn't know, which was pretty exciting.
     "Down So Long" is actually one of her oldest songs. She used to play it solo acoustic 6 years ago. Before re-arranging it, it was a gritty harrowing song, with wrenching and emotional singing. That's why I have such mixed feelings about the new version. I haven't heard it enough (I think only once before the show) to get past it being a jarring revision.
     I haven't heard any Jewel studio recording that captures what she's capable of live. Definitely see her if you get a chance. (neal)

Liking Jewel for me was a being in the right place at the right time thing. If you were lucky enough to see her live before her career took off, you'd understand why people here have a fondness for her.
     Her music isn't even the kind I normally like (mostly contemporary singer songwriter stuff, some of it quite funny), but ecto members sent me a tape of her songs months before her album appeared. I didn't like it at first, but it really grew on me and I got so I was totally enthusiastic about her talent. I was quite disappointed when the album came out because only a few of the songs I'd grown to like were on it, and in my opinion most of the songs on the album were her weaker ones. I still am fond of "Hey Little Sister" and "Daddy" and even "Painters" because of the lyrics, but "I'm Sensitive" and "Adrian" have always made me cringe. "Who Will Save Your Soul" was okay despite its preachy nature until I heard it 100 too many times.
     I would love a cd version of her song "Nicotine Love" which has always been my favourite song of hers. None of her truly edgy songs or funny songs appeared on the album, though a couple funny ones like "Race Car Driver" showed up on promos.
     I saw her live in Seattle in a tiny cafe three times, and she was an extremely engaging performer—by the final show of 4 in Seattle (I missed one because I was out of town—believe me, that's the only reason I would have missed it) the crowd was huge and I was a committed Jewel fan. I saw her almost a year later in a bigger theatre during her tour with Edwin McCain, and still found her quite wonderful.
     Then about a year later I saw her at a huge theatre in Seattle. I actually hadn't planned on going, but then a net friend arranged for some excellent tickets and I thought it would be worth it. Her performance was, but with an audience that size I'd lost the personal connection I felt with her music and after so many performances her patter felt canned. (Not that you can blame her—after so many shows how could she think of something new and different to say every night?)
     After her utter overexposure I haven't been able to listen to the many many tapes I have of her performances and certainly don't listen to the cd. I think she had the choice of becoming a widely popular performer or being a risky, interesting one, and she chose the former. I don't disrespect her for it, but it means I'm less interested in the music she produces.
     Still, she has a wonderful voice and can use it in a zillion different ways. She's prolific and some of her material is wonderful, but the songs that you hear on the air everywhere aren't her best and certainly aren't her most creative. At all.
     And even when I was really into her music I would never have put her on the same scale as Happy Rhodes, Tori Amos, Kate Bush, or Veda Hille—she's never proven herself, and now I am certain never will. She's been drawn into the machine totally, and now she's last year's flavour for the general public. I can't gather up enough interest in Jewel anymore to hear her new albums, and I'm sad about that considering my early enthusiasm. She just went a more conventional direction than I was interested in hearing from her given her early early music. Lots of pretty but no gutsy passion.
     By the time Spirit came around I was already pretty disgusted with her. Here's how I described "Hands":
     I just saw Jewel's new video "Hands" from the upcoming album, Spirit. Please tell me that the album isn't going to be like that track. Please.
     It's a pretty little song, nicely produced and presented like a caramel apple. Sappy outside. There may be something good for you in there (perhaps you might get a glimpse of that through the preachy, didactic lyrics—ugh!) but Jewel's direct honesty coated in sugar is sickly sweet and the apple underneath is tasteless and maybe even a little rotten because of the overpowering coating. And you get the feeling it's just for kids.
     What a stupid metaphor, but I'm trying to describe the experience of watching and listening to this.
     The video is even worse—there has been some kind of disaster which involves collapsed buildings but nothing so messy as a fire or flood. I'm guessing an earthquake. They're digging people out. There's Jewel lit like an angel (with a new very-last-year tangly hairstyle) floating through this darkness singing about how she has hands that can help while she's moving past people who are actually helping. She even lifts up a board and there's a man underneath! Follows rescuers who break down a door and there are children cowering in the flashlight! She smiles as them beatifically and floats on, singing about how much she can do with her hands and the song ends with how we are God's hands, we are God's voice.
     I don't know about you, but I found that in itself a telling metaphor of the experience of listening to her. There's something going on under the surface but she's floating over it, not really involved. There are flashes of promise that she might actually do something, but she just smiles and drifts away. If I were a rescue worker I'd tell her to get the hell outta the way.
     I know a lot of people, masses of them probably, will love this. I don't. It makes me sick. I never did like caramel apples except when I was a kid, and even then I liked the idea of them better than the reality. The apples underneath were always disappointing. because even if they were sweet and wonderful the sickly sweet caramel made them taste flat.
     In a song about "hands"? Setting Jewel up as an angel? I'm sure that's the concept, but the whole never-getting-your-hands-dirty aspect of it is rather telling. I feel that's what Jewel is doing with her music now. She's a preachy angel with fashionably tangled hair, though in a modified, prettier way. Her songs and music are modified and prettier these days certainly more didactic and simplistic.
     No thanks.
     What a waste of a great talent. (Neile)

i think that an early impression that jewel typically goes for the "cute" rhyme is fairly accurate. i would add to that she seems to be walking the tightrope between the novel and the sincere. on one hand, she yodels; on the other, she writes pretty poignant lyrics. the two can mix, to an extent, but i usually have trouble with folks who do this consistently (tori amos is one person who pulls this off, and, in that regard, the comparison between jewel and tori someone made might not be all that far-fetched—i just don't know if jewel will be able to pull it off yet).
     i range from enthralled to neutral on jewel. some of her songs are really excellent, while others leave me shrugging. i think i've listened to her album twice, so my feelings are based entirely on seeing her live a couple times. she's a lot of fun for the between-song banter though. (woj@smoe.org)

I found her to be ok, but too folkie for my taste. I saw her in The Wizard of Oz in Concert and was impressed. (zzkwhite@ktwu.wuacc.edu)

i just saw jewel in her performance of The Wizard of Oz in Concert. i still like her, but i still hold by my first initial reaction that her voice is very untrained and that kinda annoys me. not that i want her to be classically trained or anything. But she has so many types of "styles" i.e., girly high-pitched voice, deep belting voice, and everything in between. this isn't a big deal, but she uses them all in one song, and that bugs me. i feel that it's not because she chooses to, but rather she doesn't know any other way to hit the note. if she was able to retain that girly voice and still sing low notes, or belt out high notes...but instead she switches not because she chooses but because she doesn't know how else to hit the notes. unfortunately i can tell it is a matter of her ability as opposed to a matter of her choice. does this make any sense? i mean i still love her, and continue to listen to her music. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

I pushed Jewel Kilcher on my friends for years, and then suddenly found myself disgusted by the direction she was taking, unable to listen to the re-recordings her songs as singles or, say, her Saturday Night Live performance (which I found unlistenable). I *do* like Pieces of You quite a bit. But I also agree that I'm happier when I'm listening to tapes of "rarities." The stuff that ended up on the early live tapes is pretty amazing.
     Talk about prolific songwriters. Talk about disappointing omissions...like a whole album that got scrapped. And then when we did get new material, it was horribly overproduced and overschmaltzed.
     Heh. A while back I heard her on...Leno, I'm pretty sure, doing "Down So Long." I wasn't overly taken with the rendition—there was a little too much of the "I'm too cool to actually sing the words, so I'll just sort of half-sing-half-scat them" thing going on, but I was just struck by how amazing she sounded. She was clearly having fun, and she kept hitting and holding these notes that knocked my socks off for their intensity more than their clarity. It really brought back why I'd loved her so much almost 5 years ago....
     Jewel was one of the freshest voices of the mid-90s, and I'm largely convinced that *that* voice is gone, replaced by something else. (10/99, burka@jeffrey.net)

I cherish the shows I caught before the big Atlantic machine decided she was a cash cow and decided to milk her album for every dollar they could get. :-( She was fresh, funny, and quite in tune with her audience.
     By far the best of Jewel's tunes have never been committed to CD. As a mailing list member, I've gotten many tapes of live performances with outstanding songs which will likely never be released...her live shows only occasionally feature a nugget from the vault. Jewel has written over 200 songs so far, and how many of those not on the album are ever heard nowadays?
     When we attended JewelStock (a private show for her mailing list which was arranged to coincide with the recording of her—now discarded—second album), she played for two and a half hours solid, and I think we heard one song from the first album. That was over two hours of the neatest, most haunting, most enchanting music I've heard in a long long time. "Nicotine Love", "His Pleasure Is My Pain" and "Moon Over Austin" stand out as the most heart-wrenching performances of the evening. We were utterly drained when we left the theater about 12:30, and yet Jewel stood around in the parking lot and talked to all of us for another hour before leaving. It was impossible to have attended that concert and left without feeling the magic of a fascinating new singer/songwriter ready to take the world by storm.
     It's incredibly disappointing to realize that most of the music we heard that night won't be heard by many other people; Atlantic dumped the album she recorded that month—and delayed the production of a new one until Jewel herself has gotten tired of the wait and decided to move on to other things.
     I'm not convinced it has been totally her choice; even while waiting for Atlantic to give the green light for her second album, she continued to write some excellent music. But either because she doesn't have the leverage or because she doesn't feel strongly enough about it, she failed to push for a new album when the music was fresh. Atlantic saw that they could sell millions of copies of her album without spending any additional money or effort on producing a new one. :-( I may be wrong, but I don't think she's written any new music in quite a while, and she's gotten interested in other outlets for her talents—to the detriment of her songwriting.
     Sadly, she WAS recording a stunning followup to Pieces of You, but after Atlantic convinced her to let Pieces of You ride a while longer and generate more singles + revenues, she lost interest in it and moved on. Having heard many of the candidates for this lost album at live shows, I think it's a real shame that she discarded some of her finest music ever—in favor of Spirit, a watered-down mix of misproduced older tunes and hurriedly composed new ones. :-( Thank goodness for b**tleg live tapes. :-)
     Interestingly, I heard a fair amount of her poetry, read live, and much of it was quite good. The poetry book and CD contain altered and/or truncated versions of some otherwise good poems, unfortunately. I agree that she didn't let her book "cook" long enough before releasing it, but then I don't think she intended it to be world-wise, deep musings. It was intended to be a snapshot of where she was at the time the poetry was written—a growing teenager. The wisdom of that choice is, of course, subject to criticism as well. :-)
     As for introducing fans to other poetry, I suspect the dedication to Pablo Neruda in Pieces of You probably did more good than her book's promotion...but then, my daughter was able to find Sylvia Plath without anyone's help, so I may be biased... :-)
     And so it goes... but I'll defend that music I have on tape to my final breath. :-)
     I will also defend Jewel as a guitarist, even though you rarely see her play anything challenging these days. Twice when I saw her live I was blown away not only by the technical accomplishment on certain songs, but also by her innate sense of tone and interval. Not flashy, but powerful. (Greg Dunn)

So, I was mindlessly watching TV and Jewel comes on Leno and does her latest single "What's Simple is True." I haven't listened to her latest CD for a while 'cause I burned out on it pretty fast and lent it to a friend who still has it. But, man, hearing that song made me happy. It's not a great song, but she has a beautiful voice and it made me think of when I saw her in concert a few years ago when she was just starting to get big and she put on a really fun show with a lot of songs that aren't on Pieces of You. Yeah, she's cheesy, yeah she's gotten kind of a celebrity chip on her shoulder lately, yeah her upcoming Christmas album sounds like it could be a nightmare but damnit I like Jewel! I like chocolate cake and I like Jewel, so sue me. I even like some her poems, i think they're sweet. But it is lame that she gets a second book and plenty of good poets get nothing. (nnadel@hotmail.com)

I've been a fan for years as well, but was horribly, intensely disappointed with Spirit and now I almost hate her (she made us wait four years for this?!?) I'm holding out for the day when I can hear tracks like "Love Me, Just Leave Me Alone" and "Carnivore" on CD. I read in an interview that her next album is going to be a 'rock' album, so it's a possibility. But I really doubt it (especially since I hear she's doing a Christmas album), as I've lost whatever faith I used to have in her.
     "Love Me Just Leave Me Alone" is a *great* song. Probably my favorite Jewel composition. I have a version of it on a bootleg tape. The song really rocks, the lyrics are excellent, and she turns in a great performance of it. Gosh, I wish I would have known about VH1's Storytellers before it aired (although I may not have watched it, thinking most of it would be composed of the crap on Spirit).
     I'm an ex-Jewel fan, who still is vehemently holding onto the notion somewhere inside her still lives a great songwriter and vibrant performer, even after "Hands" and the rest of Spirit. After all, I've heard "Love me, just leave me alone", "Sometimes it be that way" and "Carnivore". I just wish she put them on her album. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

I bought Pieces of You after I saw Jewel on that The Wizard of Oz in Concert show, and this was WAY before "Who Will Save Your Soul" hit big, by then I was going "well, I was fan before all of this" (laugh out loud). When I first heard "Hands" i really liked and I like a few songs on Spirit but I was disappointed in the overall outcome. (wutheringheights00@yahoo.com)

I still don't get the Jewel thing—I even thought her poetry release totally bit. (Plasterofstevie@aol.com)

Count me in amongst the folks who just don't get what the big deal is. I've tried several times to listen to Pieces of You, but every song sounds exactly alike, and she whines on every one of them. (valerie@smoe.org)

Actually, I have to admit that I haven't listened really closely to enough of her songs to know how effective her songwriting is. I had Pieces of You for a while, found it mostly boring—couldn't understand what the fuss was all about—and ended up exchanging it. Whenever I hear her on the radio, she always sounds a little too cutesy for my taste so it turns me off.
     So, maybe I'm rejecting her a little unfairly—maybe if I listened more closely I'd appreciate some of her lyrics, I don't know. But her voice grates on me—it's so little-girl sweet that I don't want to hear more. (jwermont@sonic.net)

With all the talk of Jewel's new album I pulled out a live tape someone sent me a year ago to hear some of the newer songs that everyone is raving about. Many people have told me that although I disliked the first album (with the exception of 2 or 3 songs) that if I heard Jewel live I would change my mind—and I didn't believe them....
     ...Well. This tape kicks some serious ass. The tape includes some songs with a band—"Carnivore" and "Love me just leave me alone", "Race Car Driver" and my favorite "Sometimes it be that way"....
     I really like her with a band. A lot. I think those songs are more interesting than the ones on Pieces of You but some of the live versions of those songs are *great*.... With the success of Pieces of You and this being her 2nd album, she really has the power to do pretty much anything with this new album—to play around and experiment, etc. So I'm interested to hear what she's going to do with it...really.
     Anyway, if you've judged Jewel based on the radio or her huge success or anything like that, maybe you should give her live show a try and give the 2nd album a listen—I think we're in for a surprise. (Songbird22@aol.com)

i have not heard the new Jewel album, but i have heard and seen the video "Hands", and i would like to say that i too agree that it is utter tripe. i disagree with the interpretation that she is an angel there to help the people, because her presences in the video is all too corporeal, and she does physically help one or two people in the video. i don't fully blame her for the video, as it isn't necessarily the artist's choice for the interpretation or the video concepting, that is the director, but i certainly think that Jewel did not disapprove of the video, and most likely had some sort of input with the director in the direction that the video would take. unfortunately that direction was way to condescending and utterly clichéd for my liking. but i am willing to give her a benefit of the doubt.
     i would also like to comment on the fact that i don't think people here dislike Jewel because of the hype surrounding her or the overcommercialization of her. after all Sarah McLachlan is quite popular round these here parts, and she is probably the epitome of overcommercialization. same thing goes for people like Tori Amos, Paula Cole, Fiona Apple, and a slew of other commercially successful artists. rather people seem to dislike Jewel because her work (in my opinion) tends to be rather sophomoric, simplistic, and overly earnest.
     now i liked Jewel way back when. i remember when she was first brought up on the ecto list, before Pieces of You was released—i think before she even had a contract. i have her first self-produced Shiva Diva Doo-Wop tape that you could purchase from her coffee house shows. i have her first two promo CDs (Save The Linoleum and Phyllis Barnabee Finally Gets a Bra). i have Pieces of You. hell i even have a video tape of her in The Wizard of Oz in Concert broadcast way back when. i list all these things not to boast (i am sure i could get a pretty penny for some of these items, being as there are so many damn fanatical Jewel-ries out there) but to state where i am coming from. i have always found Jewel to be sophomoric, simplistic, and earnest.
     but i also saw some sort of potential in her. her live stuff (i have yet to see her live, and i don't think i want to now, but i have tapes) is fun. she was fun. she use to exuded personality, wit, she believed in what she wrote, yet she never really took herself too seriously. despite how overly earnest and overly simplified everything she said was, she would makes comments like "kinda dorky but..." (end of the live version of "I'm Sensitive" from Save The Linoleum). she would write a song in the afternoon and then she would perform it in all its silliness later that night. she wasn't earthshattering. she wasn't someone who would change my life. but she was someone who i enjoyed. and who enjoyed herself.
     in short she was a real person. some artists are able to stay that way. after all Ani Difranco is able to keep the same sort of spunk and grounded reality with her, even though she seems to be selling bigger and bigger arenas. Ani is the perfect example of taking someone who slowly builds up from the ground level and then works her way up.
     Jewel on the other hand left from the ground to the stars, and hasn't looked back. any sort of potential that she had, seems to have become stilted in her fame. and though i should probably listen to her new album to make judgments, and not base it on the single, and the video, i think that Jewel is someone that will most likely be lost to the fame machine.
     in short, Jewel takes herself WAY too seriously now. and she used to think it was all sort of fun and games. but now...way WAY too earnest. she seriously thinks she is going to change the world. Ani Difranco, well you just have to look at her last CD cover (Little Plastic Castle to see that she is still having fun. and i applaud that.
     anyway what this long ass email boils down to is that i think it is way to simplistic to say that Jewel gets ragged on for being overly commercial and overly exposed. if she wasn't so overly exposed or overly commercial, i think she would be a very different person, and a very different performer. too much too soon syndrome. didn't Sinead O'Connor sing about that? ("how could i possibly know what i want when i was only twenty-one"—"the emperor's new clothes").
     i didn't mean to ramble on about Jewel. but this is what you get when you get emails from me this late at night. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

Comments about live performance:

Jewel Kilcher will be kicking off her tour the next couple of months. If there is any way you can catch her show do so! She's absolutely incredible. (12/94, jjhanson@att.net)

Ok, so I made something like 10 hours worth of tapes from her live shows, and she still doesn't have an album out. They're still great. And I've got over 60 stupendous songs, most of which are guaranteed not to be on her debut album. (1994)
     I'm not really sure which part of my feelings I should consider a confession: The fact that I was considering going to see Jewel in concert, or the fact that I wasn't. After talking to Alan Bershaw the other day, I was convinced that I should make the effort. I haven't seen Jewel for two and a half years, and now she's touring sheds behind an album I can't even bring myself to buy, so I was pretty leery.
     Things got off to a very promising start as I walked to the Pavillion in the somewhat cooling post-storm drizzle, and immediately encountered a guy on the street who sold me a 2nd-row ticket for $35 (list price). And then I ran into friends who I'd given a set of Jewelstock tapes to several years ago. I couldn't believe I had 2nd-row tickets. I've never been that close at Merriwether. I was worried the sound might be unbearable, but I was actually in front of all the speakers and video screens.
     Jewel took the stage in the dark and started into a stunning solo acoustic version of "Always" from Pieces of You. She played the whole song in the dark, well, there were a lot of flashbulbs going off, and the crowd was ecstatic. I thought the show was more erratic than any of the shows I've seen in the past, but it had its share of high points, some of which were completely brilliant. I think she's still trying to figure out what to do with a band. I'm kind of reminded of disappear fear when they first tried adding bands. They went through two full bands—decent players who never came alive, until they assembled what was their one great band (their last one). Anyway, I thought most of the lulls in the night came from songs that had mediocre band arrangements that just served to drown out whatever interest might be generated by the vocals.
     There were some highlights that included the band, but by and large the real standouts tended to be the solo, or pared-down, numbers. "These Foolish Games", with piano accompaniment, was powerful and moving, and the version of "Carnivore" showed the gritty side of Jewel so sadly lacking from Spirit. The crowd was in awe of "Carnivore", and ate up rockers like "Love Me Or Leave Me Alone", which implied to me that everyone would have happily embraced an edgier album. She sang a few new songs which had great vocals and pretty simple lyrics (gee, there's a surprise). I had to laugh when she said here was one she had just written and the first couplet included the word "hands", the second "night" and the third "heart". But the gospel/bluesy riffing she did on the chorus totally redeemed the song.
     Another "new" song, "I'll Take You Down", was one of the more successful band romps, though it didn't have the power of its "debut"(?) at the 9:30 Club several years ago.
     I'm still not sure what I think of her re-working of "Down So Long" into a loping dance number. It seemed to work pretty well, but doesn't have anything like the power of the old solo version. I know that's re-worked on Spirit, but I was really pleased to see how Jewel redid her hits so that both she and the audience could still be surprised by them. This included a playful "You Were Meant For Me" and an unbelievable jazz/scat extended (and virtually unrecognizable) version of "Who Will Save Your Souls". I didn't think that song could be made interesting after its overexposure, but this performance was unbelievable.
     She closed with some old standards, a lovely version of "Angel Standing By" and then "Chime Bells", which I thought I had heard she wasn't doing anymore. I have to say she didn't seem to enjoy doing it much, though it was interesting to see that she had put in an entirely different yodel now.
     I also was amused to see that she is still pretty uncomfortable on stage when she doesn't have a guitar. While many of her mannerisms have changed from the old days, she still was kind of awkward when she took on the role of "lead singer". She was also pretty chatty, and I saw her twist the set list around at least once, which I thoroughly approved of.
     There were a couple of odd moments that I thought kind of interesting though. On "You Were Meant For Me", you could see Jewel giving Steve Poltz instructions, either look into my eyes, or kiss me, it was hard to tell which. Also, at the end of the set, people from Jewel's crew were out riling up the audience. They basically encouraged a rush of the stage and got everyone on their feet. I know they are filming shows, so I was wondering if that was some sort of staged exercise to have the proper effect? It was rather odd. (As if the audience would have been reluctant to give her a standing ovation.)
     Well, I've gone on and on and on, much like years ago. I guess the high points of the show outweighed the low ones, both in duration and in lasting impact. Coming out of the show I felt more enthusiasm about Jewel than I have in ages. (7/99, neal)

Neal didn't quite drag me to my first Jewel show, back when she was doing the residency gig on the east coast, but he sure didn't have to do any convincing to get me to my second show a week later (or my third show another 5 months down the line!). Listening to the live version of "Who Will Save Your Soul" I was going *crazy* trying to figure out what it reminded me of so strongly. It wasn't until a week and a half later that I realized it was Frente's "Labor of Love." The resemblance is not particularly pronounced on the band version, but very noticeable when it's just Jewel and her guitar.
     A few words up front about Jewel...I was not blown over with the bulk of her songs; they seemed somewhat derivative of other folks' (a weird sense of déjà vu with many of 'em) and while she's wonderfully facile at rhyming, I get the impression that she uses that to dash off her songs.
     That said, I thought she was *wonderful* and I plan on going to next week's show if I can.
     In a sense, I kind of saw her as the Shonen Knife of the sensitive young singing/songwriting women set. That's not to say there weren't serious songs, 'cause there were, and many of 'em were wonderful. But then there were songs like "Rocker Girl" and "Race Car Driver."
     I think it's important to note that Jewel is only 20, and has been playing guitar and writing for about 3 years.
     Jewel's voice is often reminiscent of Dolores O'Riordan's (of The Cranberries) and she's well aware of it—during her tune up, she did a *very* funny impersonation...
     All in all, I had a great time, and am looking forward to next week. If you're in Boston, Philly, or New York, definitely try to catch her!
     (Next week) Well, once again I saw Jewel Kilcher. This time we had a second "row" table.
     I'm now officially Very Impressed with Jewel. While I still think she tends toward the clever, witty lyric instead of reaching for something more eloquent/elegant, I'll readily acknowledge that overall her songs are more meaningful than I had thought after last week's show.
     I think I might have liked the sound system a little better last week, but I think Jewel was in better form tonight. She played most of the songs she played last week, with a few substitutions, and told many of the same stories.
     Overall, a wonderful show, and the friend I took is also hooked on her. We both bought Jewel's "bootleg" tape and are anxiously awaiting the release of the album next week.
     If you still have the opportunity to catch her (which I believe would mean Boston on Friday?), I strongly recommend it. Catch Jewel in a teensy venue while you still can.... (2/95, burka@jeffrey.net)

i shall now expound on my impressions of jewel's performance at the ludlow street cafe on the 28th of february. i actually quite enjoyed her show. she is a very dynamic and charismatic person (though i don't think reeling off quips from the three little pigs in the bathroom is as much charismatic as it is intentionally weird): she's fun to watch and to listen to. she certainly is a solo performer who would be hampered by a band. however, i can't say that i was taken in by her songs. then again, neither was i repulsed. shrug. i dunno—it was difficult to really *listen* to her songs with the noisy audience and ludlow ain't exactly the best place to experience a live show (though it's intimate enough that performer and audience can spit on each other without much effort). (02/95, woj@smoe.org)

Overall, my favorite artist for the past year was/is Jewel. Although she hasn't made an appearance locally—and won't until February—I would have to say the one of the most unique live artists around. (1995, Matt.Bittner)

I saw Jewel Kilcher tonight at the Kendall Cafe in Cambridge. The gushing by others is justified.
     She has a witty personality, great Ani-like stage presence, and her voice is sort of a folksy cross between Tracy Chapman (but a higher register), Sarah McLachlan, and Milla. The content of her songs deals with protection of innate naïveté, but with a cynical twist.
     Between songs she launched into several impromptu stories that were refreshingly honest and amusing.
     She introduced her song "Pieces of You" by explaining that it is about a girl she hates. She reflected for a moment, and then said, "You know, I bet this girl never thought I would put her into a song...or put this song on an album...or name this album after the song... heh heh heh. Revenge is Sweet."
     At the end she performed the "Yodelling Song" which her painter friend Midori requested. This was apparently the song she performed with her folksinging parents in clubs in Alaska starting when she was 6. Her parents were from Switzerland and moved to Alaska. Her father never learned to yodel in his native country, and so learned from John Wayne albums, instead. She learned from her father. There is a kissing noise in this song, and as a child she insisted her dad make the noise for her, since it was too embarrassing for her to do. This song was really amazing. Personally, I think the yodelling put the Cranberries' throat-singing to shame.
     This was a great show. If you have a chance, Go See Her. See her now, while you have the chance. (2/95, amb93002@uconnvm.uconn.edu)

I saw Jewel Kilcher last night at the Stanford University Coffee House. She put on a very nice show despite the basically inattentive audience. I was particularly impressed with her songwriting ability. She is a unique performer, has an excellent voice, and is a good guitar player. She has a good sense on humor spiced with a bit of sarcasm aimed at deserving subjects. She exhibits quite an astute ability to observe and to put into song the passion, the tenderness, the sensitivity, and the absurdity that make up human interactions. She displays a maturity here that some people never really reach. Her style is fairly broad and at times she reminds me of the in-your-face style of Ani DiFranco. In other songs I get a feel of the storytelling Michelle Shocked. She did a yodeling song that was quite impressive and actually grabbed the attention of the beer-drinking jocks in the crowd. (1995, rholmes@cs.Stanford.edu)

Very fun to watch and I actually enjoyed her performance. Amazingly strong voice—very powerful and clear. Filled up the whole stadium with it easily. (kammerzj@peak.org)

Recommended first album:

See her live instead

Recordings:


Pieces of You

Release info:

1995—Atlantic

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Jewel fans

Group members:

Jewel—guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Robbie Buchanan—piano
Oscar Butterworth—drums
Charlotte Caffey—piano
Tim Drummond—bass
Mark Howard—bass
Spooner Oldham—keyboards

Produced by:

Ben Keith

Comments:

While not an absolutely phenomenal album, this still was probably my most-played album this year. It was great to see someone so deserving have her career take off. Like a dream come true—for me as well as for Jewel. (jjhanson@att.net)

I fell in love with Jewel's singing and songwriting from tapes from her live coffeehouse shows, and while this album didn't quite live up to that promise for me, when this album first came out I thought her oeuvre itself still was impressive and that she could write songs and be funny and sing in all kinds of different ways. She still seemed to be finding herself. And I missed many marvelous songs that didn't manage to make it on this disc. Alas the album didn't wear well for me and her career took the further possible turn from my tastes. I never listen to this album anymore. (Neile)

I'm having trouble even getting past the title track, which I find intensely annoying...it usually prompts me to switch to a different CD. I see the point of those who called it naïve, though I usually don't mind a bit of idealism...this is truly painful though. I did listen to the whole thing once or twice and think it's ok though some songs are certainly better than others. I'll have to give this one a few more listens before making up my mind....
     It's okay, but kinda boring. Even so, I see mucho potential in the album, and I figure I'll buy her next album (any plans for a new album yet?) and see what's up with her. (abehrend@Direct.CA)

wow. this cd certainly deserves the raves it's been getting on ecto. when I first chucked it on the cd player at home I had my housemates asking 'so when did Tori Amos start playing the guitar?'—on a first listen they're very similar voices... (anthony.baxter@aaii.oz.au)

Just bought Jewel's new CD—it's resplendent. ("Resplendent"? did I just say "resplendent"? Oh my....) I highly recommend it. She's "ballsy" to have so many "raw" live songs on her debut, but most of them sound yummy. I can't get "Painters" out of my head—I think that's one of the best songs ever written, by anyone. (elisheva@netaxs.com)

I played the first few tracks of Pieces of You for a friend yesterday, who felt as I did that Jewel sounds like an awful lot of people, but only when she wants to...she's definitely got her own voice/style when she wants to use it.
     Pieces of You is a phenomenal debut from yet another of those ridiculously talented youngsters.
     I wanted to post that the album is not the *least* bit disappointing to me (who's only seen her a couple of times...) and I'm ecstatic that it sounds so good.
     C'mon, folks, rush out and buy this one! For the most part, it *is* just a single woman with an acoustic guitar. Though the band tracks sound great.
     I, too, miss the final line on "Pieces of You." Really adds some closure to the song. I wonder when she tacked on the extra lyric? (burka@jeffrey.net)

Yes, this is way better than the tape I have of her live. As I'd expected. (mjmjminla@yahoo.com)

The songs are great and utterly brilliant when performed live, but the production just doesn't cut it on this one. I completely tune out after track #4 every time...oh well. She plays around here a lot. :) Jewel's sound certainly isn't all that "commercial" (or at least, it wasn't when the album first came out—how many times has it been re-recorded and remixed since then?). She's a "superstar" because some suit at Atlantic decided she was going to be, and dumped a whole lot of payola into VH-1's lap to make her one. (meth@smoe.org)

One of my biggest disappointments. (sagetodd@postoffice.ptd.net)

I would even venture to say the live recordings I have from various sources are better than Pieces of You—but I still enjoy this disc. (Matt.Bittner)

Hmm. I can't quite really get into Jewel. Maybe it just isn't what i expected...I'm not sure. The first song I like, and the third one but I find myself not wanting to bother listening to the rest. (Jessica Spurling)

Another big discovery (for me) of 1995.... I just love this album, and am quite curious what she'll do next. (lombaeg@donald.interpac.be)

Jewel still writes naive, sheltered fairy tale stuff (don't get me wrong, I like Jewel enough, but you gotta admit, she's pretty naïve in those songs.) (NyxNight@aol.com)

I like it better now than when I first listened to it (half a year or so ago), but again, I haven't listened to it that much yet. (uli@zoodle.robin.de)

Pieces of You really sucked. well in comparison to what she could have released. the early inner-change concerts in san diego i have and even the two promo's atlantic released were better than that full-length, that i never listen to. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

I got it yesterday, and... yow. So *this* is what people have been going on about. I was only familiar with her singles and didn't know the rest of it. Smart, fierce, and funny—her lyrics actually reminded me somewhat of MeShell N'degeocello. (jzitt@humansystems.com)

I didn't like Pieces of You at first. Something about her voice turned me off. After a year or two of letting the album lie around, a friend suggested that I give it another go. I did, and actually quite liked it. I didn't think it was a great album, really, but I could see glimpses of greatness here and there. I liked the tune to "Who Will Save Your Soul", the unabashed naïveté of "I'm Sensitive", the images in "Painters".... (mageeol@ro.com)

Pieces of You is just simply a good album that connects deeply with a lot of people—namely, teenagers, and that's who buys millions of records, not old farts like me. I recently saw some (talented) middle school-aged girls performing Jewel's songs to their peers, who ate it right up, and at that moment it dawned on me that Jewel's music, good or bad, speaks to teenage girls today in much the way that, say, Joni Mitchell or Neil Young did circa 1970, when I was that age. (rlewis@adnc.com)


Spirit

Release info:

1998—Atlantic

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

For those who can tolerate or ignore preachy sweetness

Group members:

Jewel—guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals, backing vocals

Guest artists:

Paul Bushnell—bass
Nedra Carroll—vocals, backing vocals
David Channing—electric guitar
Josh Clayton-Felt—electric guitar
Vinnie Colaiuta—drums
Jude Cole—dobro, dulcimer, guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, backing vocals
Luis Conte—percussion
Flea—bass
James Harrah—acoustic guitar, electric guitar
Paul Jackson Jr.—12-string guitar
Patrick Leonard—keyboards, piano, electric piano
Brian MacLeod—drums, hand drums
Marty Rifkin—pedal steel
Cameron Stone—cello
Patrick Leonard—programming
Jeremy Lubbock—string arrangements

Produced by:

Peter Collins, Patrick Leonard

Comments:

Yep, the lyrics are trite and banal and almost offensively optimistic, but it's Jewel and I still like it. Though it's definitely not the great album that she has the potential to create. This album was held together by the "Spirit" theme—here's hoping someday she'll release its antithesis—an album of dark, deep, sorrowful songs—songs about psychotic hitchhikers, songs about affairs, and lost souls. Lord knows she has the material and the ability. (jjhanson@att.net)

I was extremely disappointed with Spirit. Hate it. I miss her so much. She has written some great, great songs, but instead she releases this album of bad, bad songs. How I miss her sense of humor, her levelheadedness, and her pluck. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

I still mourn the loss of that Fritz Creek (?I think?) album; one listen to Spirit convinced me that it wasn't worth plunking down my money for. A disappointment of the year. What did she *do* to "Deep Water"? It used to be one of my very favourite Jewel songs...I still haven't bought this CD. (kamesan@geocities.com)

Over 100 tunes were written and discarded between Jewel's first album and this release. If four or five of them had made it here, this might have been the album of the year. (Greg Dunn)

I'm offering a little synopsis of my reactions to Jewel's new CD. I know I was reluctant to even buy it after what I had heard from critics and from listening to "Hands" constantly, but I got a free trial run of the cd, as it were, and ended up buying the album. Take that as you will.
     Overall, this album is a lot more polished than her first, and I feel she polished out what fundamentally defined Jewel to me. When it was a girl with a guitar, her sound was a lot more innocent, unadulterated, and personal. When I listen to Pieces of You, I picture a girl on her bed, head bent over her acoustic, or a girl on a bar stool in the corner of a coffeeshop surrounded by a few of her closest friends. When I listen to Spirit, if I get any picture at all, it's of a slightly lost girl surrounded by technicians in a high-tech sound booth. A very sterile atmosphere, and I think it shows in the music. This isn't to mean that I don't like the album. It just doesn't compare to Pieces of You.
     There is a very strong Christian spiritual element to this album, which came as quite a surprise to me. i was thinking of "spirit" in a more metaphysical sense. As a pagan with mostly negative experiences with God's followers, it was a turn-off, and difficult to work through, but that's mostly my own prejudices or whatever. Most of the songs that mention God or Christian spirituality place them in a positive light, as something which gives her strength, but one song, "Down So Long", is surprisingly bitter, calling to mind Tori Amos.
     There is also frequent mention of flames, which I take to be a metaphor for spirit.
     In tone, this album sounds a lot more like Tori and Sarah McLachlan got together and had a baby, with a touch of black spirituals thrown in somewhere for flavor (how's that for mixing metaphors!), but it doesn't sound like Jewel used to. Some of the lyrics are even almost as dark as Happy Rhodes's, but somehow she doesn't pull them off as well.
     1. "Deep Water" :). This is pretty. I like the acoustic rhythm in the background. It reminds me of my favorite Sarah McLachlan takes from Solace and Touch. The first thing I noticed with this first song is that she's not alone anymore, as it were. There are keyboards, drums, bass, acoustic and electric guitars all in on the action. Plus, she doesn't do her own guitar on this one, and it shows. Still, I like it. It's catchy and singable.
     2. "What's Simple is True" :| Eh. Nothing about this one really sticks out at me. It's not bad, but not smashing, either. The rhythms and tune kind of remind me of Tori Amos on Little Earthquakes. The song is pretty bland throughout, but I like the line, "What's simple is true...I love you."
     3. "Hands" :} This song was so overplayed, I have a hard time associating it with Jewel. It's the one that least reminds me of her as an artist and person. It's also the only one that she had help composing, and maybe that's why. This is the first song that brings God into it, so much so, that I expect to see her on the Christian hit lists soon. The message is nice, but as a recovering ex-Catholic, it recalls CCD classes uncomfortably well. Once again, my prejudices, but really, the message is nice.
     4. "Kiss the Flame" :( Yuck! My least favorite song. It's sappy, and her high vocals are weak and watery. The lyrics are interesting but essentially meaningless, like those experiments to make a computer write poetry. I honestly don't know what she was thinking when she wrote this, lyrics or music-wise.
     5. "Down So Long" :) I bet y'all were wondering why I even bothered with this album, right? Well, Jewel redeems herself with me on this one. The rhythm is catchy, makes me groove in my chair. The lyrics evoke crazy images, like the Indigo Girls and Tori Amos. I especially like "A blind man on the corner said it's simple, like flipping a coin...don't matter what side it lands on if it's someone else's dime" and "It feels like someone's face is stuck on the bottom of my shoe." This is the first song that reminds me of the new country-rock of Bonnie Raitt (and probably others, but I'm not up on country). I also like the gist of the lyrics, which essentially boil down to and optimistic "There's nowhere to go from here but up."
     6. "Innocence Maintained" :) This song's fast pace reminds me at first of Simon and Garfunkel's frenetic fingerpicking, and, strangely enough, of my favorite Happy Rhodes song, "Wretches Gone Awry." The pace and her dark lyrics also remind me, finally, of Jewel's first album, notably "Little Sister". Lots of flames and darkness and sin and hatred. This is the only song that is negative toward God's followers, again reminding me of Tori. The lyrics are darkly evocative: "We are given to a god to put our faith therein; but to be forgiven we must first believe in sin." "A hero's torso built of steel and Novocain...so he found himself a whore to love while daisies choked on the window sill." Whoa! This is our childlike little Jewel? Okay, so her earlier album wasn't exactly naïve, but her songs always had at least an element of hope in them. This song makes me think of Jewel's own innocence lost when she became a star. I think fame has really taken her spirit.
     7. "Jupiter" :} This song is silly. I like all the pagan images—it's refreshing at this point. She sings about love and sex and food and the moon and nighttime. There's a little country twang goin' on, too, which goes well with the acoustic rhythm.
     8. "Fat Boy" :) This song made me cry the first time I heard it, which is always a plus. Almost every song from her first album choked me up, but this is the first for Spirit. Jewel's once again a girl in her bedroom—just voice and her own guitar. This song really belongs on Pieces of You. The lyrics are about isolation and loneliness, which everyone has felt, but that doesn't make you feel any less alone in the feeling. My eyes prickle throughout the song, but the last line, "Sometimes I feel the same" opens the floodgates. This is one of the three songs that made the cd a must-buy for me.
     9. "Enter From the East" :( Once again, her high vocals are shaky, and it's distracting. I do like the simplicity of the music—just acoustic simple fingerpicking rhythm and an eerie cello thrumming to fill up the chords. All in all, this song moves too slowly to keep my attention, and the lyrics confuse me. She lost me on this one, I'm afraid.
     10. "Barcelona" :{ The lyrics here are dark of imagery at first, then go on to say how her faith in God lets her fly and be free—reminiscent of spirituals in word, but not in sound. A little more twangy country stuff, and a chorus comes in behind her for the chorus (naturally, I guess) which reminds me of those shallow inspirational pop crap I hear way too much of these days, which basically says, "I can get through anything if I just belieeeeeeeeeve." Et cetera. I like it in black spirituals, but not in this latest incarnation.
     11. "Life Uncommon" :) This song starts out heartbreakingly beautiful. Chords like in church behind her, lyrics like a lullaby.... Then a groovy rhythm jumps in, which is still nice, but it's like pulling the shades open suddenly right after you wake up. It takes a little getting used to. I like the lyrics, which evoke images of freedom and chains, freedom and faith. It's quite gospelly (is that a word?). It's a feel-good song, inspirational in the truest sense of the word.
     12. "Do You" :} Once again, a country-type beat and twangy feel, which is fitting because the first lyrics speak of cowboys. These lyrics are amazingly cynical for our little Jewel! I like it, after the sap of all the Christianity in the previous songs, but it sure is a contrast from the optimism of Pieces of You. She kind of speaks the lyrics in rhythm like in "Who Will Save Your Soul". Once again, good but not stunning.
     13. "Absence of Fear" :) Sweet and sad and simple—Jewel at her best. The chords just kind of exist behind her, full and round and warm, like a crimson velvet pillow on which to rest her voice. The piano acts as a kind of second voice, ad libbing around Jewel's melody but without interfering. It reminds me somehow of Sting's rendition of "Someone To Watch Over Me".
     14. "This Little Bird" :)*****Ah, the pièce de resistance. I would spend 10 times the amount of money for this album just for this song. At first I thought it was Jewel harmonizing with herself, and I thought, "Wow! She can make her voice so deep and mellow, like Ella Fitzgerald. Then I read the book and found out the main voice is her mother, Nedra Carroll! This woman has a stunning voice, and it's truly amazing how similar it sounds to her daughter's. I hope she does a record of her own sometime.
     This is a lullaby Jewel's mother used to sing to her, and it's done completely a cappella. Jewel's and Nedra's voice melt together like honey and molasses; their timing and harmony are flawless. I cannot get enough of this song.
     Okay, to recap: overall, an okay but largely uninspiring collection of songs, with the exception of a few jewels (no pun intended, honestly) that make the whole damn thing irresistible.
     Grade B-
     Favorites: "This Little Bird", "Absence of Fear", "Down So Long", "Fat Boy". Least Favorite: "Kiss the Flame", "Enter from the East".
     Whew! This took a lot out of me. Well, I hope it helps someone decide whether to buy it or not. (APryde@worldnet.att.net)

For me, nothing compares to Jewel's live performances. I can't remember the last time I listened to Pieces of You, I don't think I've listened to Spirit since I got it last November...sadly enough, I don't think I even like seeing Jewel live anymore actually...seeing her various tv performances and being in the studio for the MTV Live thingy with Jewel, I just don't get that great vibe from her like i used to.
     "Deep Water": as with most of her songs, this one takes on a much different life with a band than it does with just her and her guitar. This used to be one of my favorites to hear her perform because she usually did it without anyone else, and it wasn't just a pretty, catchy song, it was beautiful and heartfelt.
     "Fat Boy": I think that for a while, this song was also known as "Fragile Flame"...definitely THE song that constantly hit me whenever i saw her live, especially when she introduced it explaining why she wrote it...personally, it's the lines "or outrun my skin and be pure wind" and the resulting climax of the phrase to the high note that sends shivers all over my body. It's a beautifully crafted and extremely touching song, and thank god Patrick Leonard didn't screw around with it.
     "Absence of Fear": this is another song that just sounds better to me with her and a guitar. The piano might work by itself, but then the strings come in and the bass and the drums and suddenly we're in schmaltz flavor country.
     "This Little Bird": I remember being blown away by Nedra's performance of this song at Jewelstock. This and a duet they did of a song called the "Face of Love". This song and "Fat Boy" are pretty much the only reasons why I'm happy to have the album (well, I'm also happy to have the album because I got it for free). (paul2k@aol.com)

Having just heard the music, I didn't find "Hands" or the rest of the disk offensive. A bit preachy—perhaps. But this is Jewel we're talking about. I don't think she was ever one to go for the obscure or the sublime, was she? It's always pretty much straight to the point with her...and I kind of appreciate that. Within her limits, I thought the songs were quite OK, less cutesy that some of that first CD, arrangements remarkably restrained given the budget and big label push behind the whole thing...and I like her voice. So sue me. I still think that it's unfortunate that she ended up being picked for stardom because if it wasn't for that she'd still be getting a lot better reviews here than she currently does. Overexposure is a terrible thing! (afries@zip.com.au)

Long wait and over-commercialization or not, I still think she's incredible. (sspan)

It does show things in a different light to see Spirit as a sort of concept album, intentionally veering toward the softer side of...stuff. (jzitt@humansystems.com)

I consider myself a pretty big Jewel fan but I have mixed emotions about Spirit, i think she could've made a much better album...this one is quite sappy if you ask me. I think "Down So Long" shows she can do a Melissa Ethridge type thing and really rock if she wants to! Too bad she doesn't want to, at least not on the albums. I have yet to see her live but hopefully someday. (wutheringheights00@yahoo.com)

I wasn't going to buy it but I did out of curiosity and have listened to the first 6 songs so far...I think the music and writing is solid, though I'm not sold on the whole "theme" of this CD...also, I get the feeling that critics of Jewel might say this CD is pretentious or a bit preachy, but...I don't think it is, but they need something to pick on, right? ;) If you're interested in her new CD, get it for the track "Barcelona". Whoa. There are some good tracks on this CD and I'm liking a few more than I thought I would (this is from someone who is not a Jewel fan at all). (Songbird22@aol.com)

Two summers ago, I saw her at Lilith Fair, and her performance was amazing. She rocked out, and I loved it. I saw those glimpses of greatness being fulfilled, so I was really pumped for a new album.
     One scrapped album and a new album later, I have to wonder what happened to that greatness. Spirit, for me, elicits nothing more than a "Blah". Maybe a "yawn" if I'm feeling generous.
     The album fails for me on almost every level. Musically, it all sounds pretty much the same. I can't really pick out any hooks to keep me interested. There's a nice tune here or there, like in "Hands" and "Do You", but overall, the music does nothing for me. It never takes me by the throat like "Love Me Just Leave Me Alone" or "Carnivore" (or even the yodeling).
     At least I don't hate the music on Spirit; but that's more than I can say for the lyrics. There appear to be two types of songs, lyrically, on Spirit:
     1) Quasi-religious songs that say that the world can be a bad place, but people are really good/nice/innocent at heart, and we can all make the world a better place.
     2) Generic love songs with bad poetry.
     Maybe I'm being harsh, maybe I'm just not "getting it", but I find most of the lyrics on Spirit to be, well, bad. Some appallingly so.
     For instance, I can't help but visibly wince at this, the first line of "Deep Water": "You find yourself falling down / Your hopes in the sky / But your heart like grape gum on the ground". "Grape gum on the ground"—what an unfortunate image, what unfortunate alliteration. I suppose she picked the grape flavor just so she could fill out the alliteration and score poetry points. Whatever.
     Or how about this, from "What's Simple Is True": "Our two shadows merge inseparably". Um...What?
     How about one more: "Hitler loved little blue-eyed boys / And it drove him to hate". That seems to be a rather simplistic explanation for Hitler's psyche, but anyway...
     When the lyrics aren't bad, they're extremely general. She talks about things a lot, talks about what a great love she has or whatever, but never offers any evidence. She talks about how people can be good, or can become innocent again, in a cruel world, but she never offers any examples of people that do. "Show don't tell" as writers say. She used to do that sometimes with songs like "Painters", but not on this album.
     Even if I concede that it's OK for her to simply talk about things, the lyrics still fail in communicating anything interesting to me. I've heard all the things she's talking about before, and she doesn't even bother to communicate them in novel ways. And she keeps harping on the same topics over and over and over again. And if I hear how something is like a flame, particularly a "fragile flame" just ONE MORE TIME...
     Actually, my favorite part of the album is the bonus track "This Little Bird". Nedra puts more feeling into her singing in that song than all of Jewel's singing for the rest of the album.
     OK...I think I'll stop now. Suffice it to say that I've listened to the album three times, and I don't know that I'll be able to bring myself to listen to it again. I just wish I could have a copy of that album that Jewel scrapped...Rant rant rant.... (mageeol@ro.com)

Spirit—is, well, predictable. (Yves.Denneulin@imag.fr)

I'm not disillusioned, but I must say Spirit was a major, major disappointment. In a way, how could it not be? Think back to just how much anticipation had built up around it. But the biggest thing wrong with it was that it was just so stinkin' overproduced. Face it, she's no longer the ragged, underproduced, unpolished, no-apartment-havin' diamond in the rough (heck, she's on the cover of Vogue and Rolling Stain), she's now fully polished, and there goes most of her appeal. I'm not saying success has spoiled her; overpolishing has. Next time, just take her to Rick Rubin's living room and let him record her on a TEAC. One thing's for sure, if Spirit had come out first, it wouldn't have sold 10 million copies. (rlewis@adnc.com)


Joy: A Holiday Collection

Release info:

1999—Atlantic

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

For Jewel or holiday album fans

Group members:

Jewel—vocals, harmony vocals, vocal arrangement

Guest artists:

Jerry Barnes—bass
Peter Bliss, Danny Blume—guitar
A. Campbell—pedal steel
Sterling Campbell—drums
Nedra Carroll—harmony vocals, vocals, vocal arrangement
Dennis Cinelli—lute
Robbie Kondor—keyboards, piano
Mary Lee Kortes—backing vocals
John Mahoney—keyboards
Arif Mardin—keyboards
Joe Mardin—keyboards
Willie Martinez—percussion
Chieli Minucci—guitar
Lee Musiker—keyboards
Michael O'Reilly—guitar
Wayne Pedzwater—bass
Shawn Pelton—drums
Leon Pendarvis—piano
Sophia Ramos—backing vocals
Winston Roye—bass
Ira Siegel—guitar
Steve Skinner—keyboards
Valerie Wilson—backing vocals
Tawatha Agee, Terrance L. Barber Jr., Ann Ory Brown, Marion Beckenstein, Vivian Cherry, Angela Clemmons—Patrick, Dennis Collins, Emily K. Eyre, Keith Fluitt, Katie Geissinger, Diva Gray, Robbi Kumalo, Wayne Hankin, Mary Lee Kortes, Audrey Martells, Janice Pendarvis, Sophia Ramos, Marlon Saunders, Allison M. Sniffin, Vaneese Thomas, Fonzi Thornton, Darryl Tookes, Lori Ann Veles, Audrey Wheeler, James Williams, Ken Williams, Valerie Wilson—choir, chorus
Jerry Barnes—choir arrangement, choir, chorus, vocal arrangement
Katreese Barnes—choir arrangement, choir, chorus, vocal arrangement
Sophie Buskin, Patrick Duffey, Netousha Harris, Alexis Kaleoff, Cassidy Ladden, Eden Riegel, Dakota Sanchez, Christopher Trousdale, Lisbeth Zelle, Harry Zittel—children's chorus
Robbie Kondor—orchestration, programming, synthesizer programming
Arif Mardin—arranger, choir arrangement, conductor, orchestration, string arrangements, vocal arrangement
Joe Mardin—arranger, choir arrangement, choir, chorus, conductor, orchestration, programming, vocal arrangement
Lee Musiker—arranger
Gene Orloff—concert master
Steve Skinner—arranger, orchestration, programming, synthesizer programming

Produced by:

Arif Mardin, Joe Mardin

Comments:

I highly recommend Jewel's latest for those with a high tolerance for schmaltz in their Christmas music. It's very over-produced, but it's really good at the same time. Her voice is better than ever. And the two Latin numbers, "Ave Maria", and a song called "Gloria". which she wrote herself, are really beautiful—as is "I Wonder as I Wander", where she harmonizes with her Mom. We also get to hear a studio recording of "The Face of Love", the song she wrote for Desree to sing in Romeo and Juliet (but which Desree turned down. She also uses a gospel choir to great effect, and it's just an overall great good album—capturing all kinds of Christmas moods—from the funny ("Rudolph") to the sublime ("Gloria"). Definitely worth checking out for Jewel fans who like Christmas music—for those who don't like Jewel—I don't think this album will convert anyone. What can I say, I can't help it—I like her. Her voice has never sounded better—the second half of this album is really incredible.
     Well, this album certainly won't win any over of the fans she's lost due to her overproduction and sunny optimism. Yet, I find myself really liking it—for schmaltzy over-produced music, at least it's very well done. Her voice is great, and a couple of the songs are really incredible. It struck me listening to this that Jewel is sort of the Karen Carpenter of the '90s, the naive innocent, kind of corny young woman with the great voice (minus the anorexia). This album reminds me of some of the Christmas type specials of the '70s—very wholesome, family-oriented, a variety of styles of music, etc. Like I said, it certainly won't win over any of her fans who left because she refuses to record her darker, angrier material ("Nicotine Love", etc.), but it's not a bad album. (jjhanson@att.net)

This Way

Release info:

2001—Atlantic

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Jewel—vocals

Guest artists:

Tim Akers—keyboards
Bekka Bramlett—backing vocals
Steve Brewster—drums
Lisa Cochran—backing vocals
J.T. Corenflos—electric guitar
Eric Darken—percussion
Dan Digmore—steel guitar
Paul Franklin—steel guitar
Kenny Greenberg—electric guitar
Dann Huff—electric guitar
Gordon Kennedy—electric guitar
B. James Lowry—acoustic guitar
Chris McHugh—drums
Jerry McPherson—electric guitar
Gene Miller—backing vocals
Steve Nathan—keyboards
Chris Rodrigues—backing vocals
Jimmie Lee Sloas—bass
Jackie Street—bass
George Tidwell—trumpet
John Willis—acoustic guitar
Craig Young—bass
Jonathan Yudkin—cello, fiddle, mandolin
Dave Angell, Monisa Angell, Janet Askey, Beth Beeson, Lynn Bloom, Bruce Christensen, Connie Ellisor, Gerald Greer, Anthony LaMarchina, Lee Larrison, Bob Mason, Cate Myer, Kathryn Plummer, Pamela Sixfin, Calvin Smith, Roger Spencer, Julie Tanner, Alan Umstead, Catherine Umstead, Gary VanOsdale, Mary Kathryn Vanosdale, Glenn Wanner, Karen Winkelmann, Joy Worland—strings
Carl Gorodetzky—contractor, strings
David Lyndon Huff—programming
Ronn Huff—conductor, string arrangements
Wayne Rodrigues—drum programming
Tedd T.—programming

Produced by:

Dan Huff, Jewel; Lenedra Carroll, Ron Shapiro—executive producer

Comments:

Well, the new Jewel album is out—had to run out at lunch and buy it—a tradition I've managed to uphold so far for all her full album releases.
     Jewel, but it is a really solid album and is more varied than Spirit. Plus there's a few surprises for fans of the Inner Change days.
     A few lines from other songs appear in new ones—and a whole verse of "Spivy Leeks"—a song I never thought would make it to album, but the verse works pretty well in "Everybody Needs Someone Sometime".
     So far my favorites are "I Won't Walk Away", "Break Me", and "Serve the Ego", and the rocker, "Love Me Or Just Leave Me Alone". And a live version of "Sometimes It Be That Way" made the album—a classic that I'm glad to see widely released (it does seem a version appeared on one of the import singles but I gave up tracking those down a while back). One of Jewel's favorites (according to the liner notes) is "Jesus Loves You", which isn't nearly as preachy as the title might make you think.
     Overall a solid effort—and probably the best representation of Jewel to date, but still missing the "Nicotine Love" side of her. Still, it's good to hear her voice again on some new material. (jjhanson@att.net)

I agree it's definitely her best studio album...I love Jewel and her music but I just can't listen to Pieces of You or Spirit, they are not reflections of what her music is. This Way I love and even though I was hoping for a more "Nicotine Love" era album (plus I wish "Love me just leave me alone"—would've kept the electric guitar intro instead of the twangy slow intro—oh well)...it's a very solid cd with great songs like "Do You Want to Play". I'm hoping this is a step forward for Jewel and things just keep getting better! (RocketsTail@aol.com)

Have I mentioned how much I love this album? Of her three primary releases, it best captures her power and charisma. Her song-writing has improved, and listening to her let loose with that incredible voice on songs like "Love Me, Just Leave Me Alone" can give me shivers. It's held up remarkably well since its release and I play it all the time.... (burka@jeffrey.net)


0304

Release info:

2003—Atlantic

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended only for Jewel fans or dance pop fans

Group members:

Jewel—vocals

Guest artists:

Lisa Germano—violin, backing vocals
Rusty Anderson—electric guitar
Paul Bushnell—bass
Lester Mendez—arranger, keyboards, handclapping
Patrick Warren—piano, chamberlain
Mick Bolger—trombone, trumpet, accordion
Mark Oakley—acoustic guitar
Greg Collins—handclapping
Abe Laboriel Jr.—percussion, drums, voices, handclapping, snare drums
David Levita—electric guitar

Produced by:

Jewel and Lester Mendez (executive producers Lenedra Carroll and Ron Shapiro)

Comments:

Judging by a sample track, her descent from promise to zero is now complete. It took her a while, but she's finally arrived—say hello to another Britney! (afries@zip.com.au)

Goodbye Alice in Wonderland

Copy-protected disc

Release info:

2006—Atlantic Records—83799-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Jewel—acoustic guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Paul Bushnell—bass
Luis Conte—percussion
Dorian Crozier—drums, programming
Jamie Muhoberac—keyboards, piano
Greg Suran—guitars
Tim Pierce—guitars
Rob Cavallo—guitar
John Pierce—bass
David Campbell—string and horn arrangements

Produced by:

Rob Cavallo and Jewel

Comments:

While the first single, "Again and Again," is no big departure for Jewel, it's a fairly catchy song, though not one of my favorites. The album sounds somewhat promising—definitely more of a return to her earlier style than the dance-oriented stuff from the last album. I must say she's looking better than ever. (jjhanson@att.net)

Perfectly Clear

Release info:

2008—Valory—VMCAJK0100

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Jewel

Guest artists:

Eric Darken—percussion
Jonathan Yudkin—banjo, dulcimer, mandolin, fiddle, viola
Mike Johnson—lap steel guitar
Steve Brewster—drums
Liana Manis—background vocals
Michael Rojas—accordion, piano, Hammond b-3 organ, Wurlitzer organ
Adam Shoenfeld—electric guitar
Jason Freese—strings, Hammond b-3 organ, Wurlitzer organ
Ethan Pilzer—bass guitar
Danny Rader—acoustic guitar
Glenn Worf
Wes Hightower
Mike Brignardello
John Rich

Produced by:

Jewel, John Rich

Comments:

Jewel's country effort continues to show Jewel's versatility—no matter what she attempts it still sounds a lot like Jewel. Her vocals on this album are really superb, though the songwriting, as ever, is a bit erratic. (jjhanson@att.net)

Lullaby

Release info:

2009—Fisher-Price—47913

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Jewel—vocals, acoustic guitar

Guest artists:

Jason "Turtle" Freese—piano, triangle, accordion, Mellotron
Jonathan Yudkin—violin, viola, cello, string bass, mandolin, Celtic harp, charango, Glissentar, Peruvian flute, Ecuadorian guitar, shruti box, string composing and arranging
Jonathan Ahrens—upright bass
Ken Halford—acoustic guitar (3, 8,9, 11, 14)

Produced by:

Jewel; additional production by Jason Freese

Comments:

While targeted as a children's album, it really is no different than any Jewel album, but perhaps focusing on the more quiet songs. Some great old songs from early Innerchange Days appear on it ("All the Animals", "Sov Gott—Swedish song"). Actually those liking her more folksy, stripped down arrangements with occasional strings should like this album. Truly some great vocals and nice simple arrangements. (jjhanson@att.net)

A lovely album, sweet and relaxing. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Sweet and Wild

Release info:

2010—The Valory Music Co.—VMCJK0200A

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Produced by:

Jewel and Nathan Chapman

Comments:

A pretty listenable album if you're into country/country rock. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Picking Up the Pieces

Release info:

2015—Sugar Hill Records—SUG-37804-02

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Produced by:

Jewel

Comments:

This is the album I'd always hoped Jewel would make. One of the few albums I listened to in full and back to back this year. (jjhanson@att.net)

One of the best albums of the year. (raschee@gmail.com)


Further Info:

Jewel is also author of:

  • A Night Without Armor (poems, 1998)
  • Chasing Down the Dawn: Stories From The Road (essays and poems, 2000)
  • Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story (memoir, 2015)

DVDs iclude:

  • A Life Uncommon (2000)
  • Live at Humphrey's By the Bay (2004)
  • The Essential Live Songbook (2-disc collection, 2007)

She also appears on the Lilith Fair—A Celebration of Women in Music DVD (1997).


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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