This year, Jewel celebrates the 20th anniversary of her debut album ‘Pieces of You’ – with the appropriately named ‘Picking up the Pieces’ and in conjunction with her memoir, ‘Never Broken’. Recorded in Nashville, she initially hired Paul Worley (Lady Antebellum / The Dixie Chicks) to produce the album, but he told Jewel that it was so personal that she should produce it herself – and the results tell us he was right.
‘Love Used To Be’ is the most direct reference to her divorce from Ty Murray. At times, you get the feeling that she is glad her relationship happened and at other points she is heartbroken.
‘Boy Needs a Bike’ is about a boy trying to understand his parents relationship and is a kind of getting-out-of-here song.
‘Everything Breaks’ is a song Jewel has been singing live for years and was a bonus track on the New Zealand release of ‘Pieces of You’. A perfect break up song, the piano and guitar blend beautifully.
‘Family Tree’ tells of wanting to be like our parents but not wanting to make the same mistakes.
‘His pleasure is my pain’ is almost half poetry reading and half folk song.
The bass-driven and slinky, ‘Here When Gone’ is about as country as the album gets with a tempo change for the chorus to mix things up.
‘The Shape of You’ is the perfect love song – ‘there’s a hole in my heart in the shape of you’.
‘Plain Jane’ asks the question ‘why do we try to seem interesting? What’s wrong with being plain old who we are?’ It deals with fashion and all the ways we try to ‘fit in’. It is probably the most up tempo song on the album and the beat is almost like a heartbeat.
‘Pretty Fooled Face’ is the ‘Foolish Games’ moment on the album – still a favourite song of mine and I’ll never forget listening to it as a teenager. ‘You let me get away’ she sings and towards the end she hits a great note. Standout track here.
‘Nicotine Love’ has a more of a dark feel to it and speaks about love being an addiction. The strings take centre stage here.
‘Carnivore’ is Jewel laying it all on the line – ‘I’ll never trust my pink fleshy heart to a carnivore’, she sings. Another track she has been singing live for some time, it is not just a break up song but a broken heart song.
Dolly Parton and Rodney Crowell are guests on the duets ‘My Father’s Daughter’ and ‘It Doesn’t Hurt Right Now’ which are high points of the album.
‘Mercy’ is a message song to end – ‘Cry till you crack, that’s how the light gets in’ – Jewel ends on a positive note that we can get through anything.
Mainly folk, a little country (‘Here When Gone’ and “My Father’s Daughter’) and all heart, Jewel proves she is still the same songwriter that brought us one of the world’s highest selling debuts of all time. However, there is one big difference – she now has the life experience and maturity to sing these songs and it shows in the emotion in her voice.
Like a bookend to her debut, she even adds a quote on the album cover just like ‘Pieces of You’ did – ‘What we call human nature in actuality is human habit’.
Now she writes: What we call reality in actuality is our perception of it.