This Way

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Jewel came dangerously close to drowning in her own solemnity and good intentions with her second album, so it comes as a great relief that This Way, her third effort, finds her lightening up and sharpening her focus, creating an album that never feels as somber or polished as Spirit. In fact, it's her first genuine step forward, since it finds her enhancing the latent folk and country influences in her music, attempting to add grit to her songs and performances, while retaining the pop sense of Pieces of You's studiocraft that made Spirit a more sonically satisfying record than her debut. Consequently, this is probably the best record she has cut to date, even if she still is very quick to indulge in silly, naïve lyrics (it's not just her save-the-world sentiments -- who on god's green earth has pictures of Randy Newman strewn across the floor?). Nevertheless, Jewel sounds looser, more comfortable than she ever has, and the music matches her attitude. The same problems may still remain, but her strengths have been enhanced and, at its best, This Way offers some fine, sweet adult alternative folk-pop -- maybe it has some dull stretches, and maybe she still takes herself a bit too seriously, but it's a classy adult pop record all the same.

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