One thing is for sure. When Jewel sings, you listen. There’s something about her vocal approach that evokes comparisons to absolutely no one. She has a style all her own, and it shows in each track on this album. Truth be told, there will no doubt be quite a bit of curiosity about this album as it is her first since her recent divorce from Ty Murray. With that said, many of the tracks on this album are heartbreak-laden. But, the singer actually wrote some of these cuts years ago – so unless you know the chronology of the origin of the tracks, you might be surprised to know who is (or is not) the inspiration for the music.
Regardless of the answer to that obvious question, anyone who has ever endured the pain of a divorce or a breakup will identify with the heartfelt lyrics here. “Love Used To Be” details the emotional emptiness of looking around and seeing just how much life has changed in the blink of an eye or the beat of a heart. That could also be said for the melancholy of “Everything Breaks.” There’s a sense of sadness on the track for sure, but also a kind of a numbness that really hit home with me.
But, Picking Up The Pieces isn’t totally about the breakup of a romantic relationship. “Family Tree” gives her a chance to examine the legacy that she inherited from her parents at the beginning of the song – and then moves on to a former lover. The song itself is nothing short of an introspective masterpiece, which she handles with a great deal of emotional depth.
The disc features a couple of special guests – Dolly Parton on “My Father’s Daughter” and Rodney Crowell on the somber “It Doesn’t Hurt Right Now,” which literally bleeds through the speakers. Never one to hold back her emotions, Jewel – as well as Crowell knock this one out of the ballpark with the skill of an Oliver in a Shakespearean play.
In my opinion, the cream of the crop of the album is the utterly brilliant “Carnivore.” The song walks the line from sadness to downright anger to ultimate regret – along with perhaps the best vocal performance she has given in years. If you don’t feel this one, you need to go to the heart doctor – to make sure you have one.
At the end of the day, Picking Up The Pieces is not the album you want to take with you when you’re wanting to roll down the window and crank it up down a country highway. Rather, it’s the type of album that will make you think….and drink, and maybe in that order. In a sense, it’s not a project she could have made in 1995 or 2005, as you have to live it to truly sing about – and that she does…possibly better than ever.
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Jewel – Picking Up the Pieces