Atlantic - 2002 - 59 minutes
It's four year since Jewel's last album proper, during which time she's written two books, starred in Ang Lee's western epic 'Ride with the Devil', moved to a ranch she shares with her rodeo rider boyfriend and judging by 'This Way', listened to lots of country rock radio stations.
Recorded in Nashville with producer Dan Huff (past clients include Faith Hill and Shania Twain) 'This Way' is her loudest and most mainstream album to date, covering very predictable territory and offering only glimpses of the class which preceded it.
As Jewel's 11-million selling debut album 'Pieces of You' proved, there are plenty of people out there who will take the time to love an album but 'This Way' tries to reel them in straight away with the result that it sounds more manufactured than homespun. The likes of 'Standing Still', 'Everybody Needs Somebody Sometime' and 'Do You Want to Play', with their big choruses and crashing cymbals, could be the creations of any country starlet. Most worryingly of all, 'Jesus Loves You' sounds like the work of Robbie Williams.
Thankfully it improves in the second half with the likes of the title track and 'Cleveland', good songs which resist the temptation to overblow the sentiments but songs that could still be so much better if they were just peeled back to Jewel and a guitar. These lead in to one of the album's standout tracks, 'I Won't Walk Away' which seems to find the right balance between the heavy production and Jewel's voice.
The same can't be said of 'Love Me Just Leave Me Alone', which finds Jewel roaring over guitars (not pleasant) and 'The New Wild West', where a very clever lyrical look at the US is undone by an arrangement that tries to be as epic and sweeping and the title suggests.
And if any more proof was needed that 'This Way' is not the right way it arrives in the form of the final two tracks. 'Grey Matter' and 'Sometimes it Be That Way' may only be live songs tacked on at the end but their simplicity and clarity show just how much the rest of the album is lacking. Above all they sound like Jewel is at peace with both herself and her audience – which is something the rest of this album never really convinces you of.
Doubtless it will be a huge seller, but the lesson would appear to be turn off the radio and listen to your heart.
Tracklisting: Standing Still – Jesus Loves You – Everybody Needs Somebody Sometime – Break Me – Do You Want to Play? – Till We Run Out of Road – Serve the Ego – This Way – Cleveland – I Won't Walk Away - Love Me, Just Leave Me Alone – The New Wild West – Grey Matter – Sometimes it Be That Way