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Album reviews: Jewel's 'Sweet and Wild'

June 7, 2010 |  7:11 pm

Jewel_sweet_240_ Several years into the country phase of a career that's also included stints in the coffeehouse and the dance club, Jewel has gotten the hang of the Nashville sound. On "Sweet and Wild," her second album for the Valory label, the singer loosens up her formerly clenched vocals while a cast of Music City regulars cranks out polished pop-twang arrangements more or less indistinguishable from those on recent efforts by Carrie Underwood or Kellie Pickler.

Yet if Jewel the artist has internalized the sonic values of her adopted hometown, Jewel the songwriter has seemingly ignored its lessons on the art of storytelling; these 11 tunes aim for a kind of down-home romance but lack the lyrical specificity that builds believability. "Once upon a time, used to feel so fine," she sings at the top of the album's opener, "No Good in Goodbye," and "Sweet and Wild" rarely gets more memorable than that.

The exception is "Fading," a surprisingly unsentimental song about the humiliations of old age; it takes place in a Wal-Mart bathroom and includes the word "urine." That probably makes it an unlikely candidate for country-radio success. But it's the most deserving one here.

—Mikael Wood

"Sweet and Wild"
One and a half stars (Out of four)

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