If you’re looking for the optimistic, wide-eyed, evangelical messages of Jewel’s previous albums, you may be disappointed in “This Way.” Lending more to the rock and pop worlds than to folk, this album offers a new view of the artist, with a few gems that truly show off her versatility.

Heavier drum usage and electric guitars are more prominent in the tracks, but Jewel still manages to musically sign her name to each song.

Fans used to the floating love songs of “Spirit” may find the title track and “Break Me” adequate showcases of this style, but both have more of a pop feel than anything on her earlier albums. Fortunately, her gorgeous close-knit harmonies are still in wide use throughout the tracks, regardless of musical style.

Jewel’s witty lyrics writing skills seem to still be abundant also. With lines about “Showing ta-ta’s on the TV” and fanatics beating “Satan to the kill” in “Jesus Loves You,” its obvious she still has skill. However, the non sequitur logic of “Do You Want To Play?” and the rather bizarre bridges in a number of songs make it seem that she needed a little more than two years to perfect this album.

Regardless of the thirty seconds of confusing lyrics in the bridge, “Everybody Needs Someone Sometime” beautifully melds down-to-earth lyrics, guitar chords reminiscent of the Eagles and Jewel’s new-found gusto. Lending more to the musical traditions of Melissa Etheridge and Bonnie Raitt, this piece has the attitude of a woman who’s been around the block before.

The down and dirty aspects of Jewel’s voice come out beautifully again in the bluesy “Love Me, Just Leave Me Alone.” With a beginning reminiscent of a back porch jug band, the coherent lyrics tell of a reluctant lover in the “love him, hate him” situation. Putting this track as the penultimate normal track was a wise choice, as it definitely draws you to listen to the whole album.

Set in the middle of the album, “Serve

the Ego” strays the farthest from Jewel’s yodeling folk song roots with its Eastern rhythms and growling electric guitar licks. The driving rock beat combines well with Jewel’s vocal variations between sweet soaring vocal acrobatics and gritty digs. This song is obviously from the perspective of a dominatrix in leather, no need to be graphic about the moaning at the end.

Even without my sentimental attachment to the city mentioned, “Cleveland” is still a good example of the fine line between pop and country. Even with the steel guitar twanging occasionally in the background, the lyrics and catchy melody carry this one as a definite favorite and possibly a single candidate.

Although the album may be more marketable to people who have not been fans before, if you are a fan of her societal reflections the last track is for you. “The New Wild West” continues in the tradition of her signature society-is-lost-lets-start-a-revolution motif started by “Who Will Save Your Soul” and “Do You.” The difference in this incarnation is the realistic examples and solutions presented. Jewel’s extra few years of worldly experience are reflected in her jab at leaders who sleep around like rock stars. Do you care to comment, Mr. Clinton?

Politics aside, the album as a whole does show a new direction in her music. For hard-core fans, this one might be a bit of stretch, but still a definite winner. For people who have been put off by Jewel’s Swiss-miss yodeling act in the past, this is a safe way to experience the lyrical and melodic abilities of the artist without little fear of your eardrums popping.

Miller can be reached at amiller@campustimes.org.

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