Jewel – Freewheelin’ Woman

Words Matter Media

Release Date: April 15th 2022

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Jewel– Freewheelin’ Woman (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Long Way ‘Round
  2. Dancing Slow (feat. Train)
  3. Alibis
  4. Grateful
  5. Half Life
  6. Almost
  7. Dance Sing Laugh Love
  8. Living With Your Memory
  9. No More Tears (feat. Darius Rucker)
  10. When You Loved Me
  11. Love Wins
  12. Nothing But Love

The big misconception, I think, in my career was that I was living in my car for my dream. That was not the case, I was living in my car because a boss wanted to have sex with me and when I wouldn’t, he wouldn’t give me my pay check. It was gritty and nothing about dreams. It was just about the pride of saying, ‘I will not have sex with you and if I have to live in my car, so be it.’ I was having panic attacks, I was agoraphobic, but I started figuring out my mental health during that year. When I got discovered, I knew that there was a real risk of somebody like me and my emotional baggage and my background, God forbid, I get famous, that every movie you’ve seen about every musician becoming drug-addicted and miserable. I made myself a promise that my number one job was to learn how to be a happy, whole human and not a human full of holes. My number two job was to learn to be a musician. As a musician, I wanted to be a great singer/songwriter more than I wanted to be famous. I wanted to try and go for being one of the greats and that’s a really ambitious goal. It’s a goal that’s a 60-year arc, not a five-year arc.

It’s been about a few weeks since we’ve finished our major blog post series about influential artists of all time. Though we’re starting up a new series soon about further influential artists who are legendary and iconic and timeless; right now, we’re in the in-between stage between blog series. And this means that it’s time to reflect upon who we have written that we deem to be one of the most influential artists of all time as of 2022. One artist whom I have been reflecting on lately, ever since she has released a new album a few months or so ago, is folk/Americana/pop singer Jewel. Now I personally hadn’t heard much of Jewel and her music, even before this year- Jon had blogged about her and done a deep dive into her music in 2020, and all I ever really truly heard was “Hands”, “You Were Meant For Me” and “Again And Again” on the radio. However given that Freewheelin’ Woman is Jewel’s first album in 7 years… I treated it as listening to a new artist who I didn’t need to know tons and tons about. Though I myself could have entered into my listening experience of Freewheelin’ Woman with a little more knowledge of Jewel; I’ve since found that a good album is a good album is a good album, no matter if you know the artist or not. And hence, I’ve gone into this album ‘semi-blind’. What is the end result, you ask? Well, can I just say that musically and lyrically, compared to other albums released in 2022, that Jewel’s latest is probably one of the best of the year! Freewheelin’ Woman is an album that makes you think, and an album that inspires you to live life to the fullest and actively live it with purpose!

It’s just the first album of my entire career that I’ve written from scratch. Even by the time I did my first album, I think I had several hundred songs written. We cut this album live, so we pushed record and the way the song came out is how it was. I’d only maybe do some harmonies over it. We were in there and somebody was goofing around on…I don’t know…maybe a baseline or something and then I started humming a melody and then the drums came in in a weird spot. The song formed around us. I think I improvised the first two verses, completely just wrote them on the fly and it had that chorus. The song just came about right while I was singing it and so I love that as the opening track.

I really agree with Bowie when he said, ‘You should be pushing yourself to where you’re really uncomfortable,’ and this was a really uncomfortable record to make, wanting to find a fresh new sound, a new way of singing, showing a different aspect of my talent, writing in a different way without it sounding contrived or reactionary. To get a really authentic newness out of myself is hard. I really wanted this record to reflect a sense of empowerment while being a woman. I’m 47, I’m a mom, and I love where I’m at. I feel really empowered. I’ve been able to make my own choices as a woman in this crazy world. I’ve made a living off my mind and my thoughts and my heart and my feelings, and I’m really proud. I wanted that sense of empowerment of battles fought, wars fought and coming through the other side for the better, more loving, more kind, to be the dominant gestalt of the album.

You can read all about Jewel on Wikipedia, but for those who want to hop into this inspiring, thought-provoking album without knowing the ins-and-outs of Jewel’s life, then read along right now about how I felt about Jewel’s new album. “Long Way ‘Round”, a jazzy, gospel-tinged, poppy melody, is the perfect opener, with the song being filled with an abundance of encouragement and inspiration. With Jewel fervently and eloquently relaying that we needn’t not worry about the hardships and adversities in our lives, we are presented with a happy-go-lucky melody that declares that no matter what, we will pull through, and that ‘…sometimes it’s the long way ’round, you gotta get lost, to get found…’. As far as album openers go, this melody it powerful, impacting and puts a smile on my face. I’d say that that is a big tick for Jewel, don’t you think?

The rest of Freewheelin’ Woman reveals to us an album full of hope, joy, celebration, thankfulness and gratitude, as Jewel gives thanks… to God? Dunno, but gives thanks to a vague… something. Could it be read that this album is like a worship album without it actually being a worship album? Regardless, you’ll find plenty of gems in Freewheelin’ Woman, as we are reminded about the sanctity and the preciousness of life itself. “Dancing Slow”, with Pat Monahan of Train on guest vocals, is a powerful, moving ballad about wishing two people were back in the honeymoon stage of their relationship when they were dancing slow and were head over heels in love, and is a sweet melody about wishing things were better than they are right now; while the brutal savage takedown of “Alibis” reminds us all that lies catch up with us, and that lying to the people we love and care about won’t do any good- eventually people will find out and you may lose a friend or a partner or a family member for good. These aren’t comfortable songs, but these are necessary as we learn that break-ups and wishing things were different is unfortunately a part of life. “Grateful”, a stirring paino ballad, is a standout on the album, as Jewel indirectly praises God without praising God or mentioning His name- she says she’s grateful, and I guess she leaves it all up to interpretation? If you’re a believer in Jesus, this song will resonate with you, and if you’re not, the melody will resonate with you too. I guess the song is similar to Britt Nicole’s “The Sun Is Rising” and Kelly Clarkson’s “The Sun Will Rise”, and for that, it’s great that Jewel has delivered one of the clear inspirational melodies I’ve heard within the past few months!

“Half Life”, a sobering warning about not really living life to the fullest and about coasting through life like you’re on autopilot, is a melody that encourages us all to make a positive change in our life and to turn our own lives around if we need to; while “Almost” is probably one of the most vulnerable, honest and emotional songs on the album- with Jewel lamenting the life she could have lived, and crying over the child she never had and the husband she divorced in 2014. “Dance Sign Laugh Love” is a powerful, moving pop ballad about the act of singing, dancing, and just living life in the moment, and how being present can actually bring you joy and peace and happiness; while the autobiographical (?) danceable pop melody “Living With Your Memory” has Jewel singing to her ex, and relaying that her memory of him is better than living with him, considering that perhaps they clashed in her life as a touring musician. Though lyrically this song seems cruel and callous and belittling to the other person; the melody as a whole reminds us that Jewel did have some good times with this person, and that is exactly what this song is celebrating in some weird way.

“No More Tears”, probably my favourite song on the album, is sung with country artist Darius Rucker, and is co-written with Tommee Profitt. A melody depicting Jewel at the end of her rope, being presented with all of these horrible things in life; she chooses to look on thr bright side of things and declares that there should be no more tears, that instead she is going to live and in time, she will heal from the madness that has occurred in her life and in the lives of others. It’s a declaration and a statement of probably THE song to listen to from Freewheelin’ Woman; while the acoustic guitar driven passionate melody “When You Loved Me” has Jewel singing to her ex, wondering why they’ve lost the spark and still wanting him to make her feel special like when he did when he loved her. “Love Wins”, probably the most gospel-y song on this album, speaks to the core of us, as Jewel reminds us ardently and graciously that love in fact wins in the end and we will all be ok. Whether Jewel means God’s love or not is anyone’s guess, but essentially, I firmly believe this song can be used by God to draw people into His presence. Ending Freewheelin’ Woman is the almost worshipful song “Nothing But Love”, as Jewel majestically declares that all we need is love in this world for it to be a better place. Similar in theme to The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love”, Jewel ends a near-flawless album on a bright spark- and reminds me that a great album is a great album is a great album, no matter whether you know the artist or not.

I think you can decide…what are your goals? Does happiness matter to you? And if it does, are you willing to be accountable? If you’re not happy, are you willing to change your life? Nobody owes you anything. You owe yourself a lot, so what are you willing to do for your happiness? Are you willing to say no to hard things?

The choices I made in my career, especially in the ’90s, were considered suicidal–career suicide. Taking two years off at the height of my fame was a huge no-no. Switching genres was a huge no-no, but it’s what I needed to do to keep myself psychologically healthy and creatively healthy. I had to deal with a lot of people saying, ‘Oh, she’s washed-up. She doesn’t know what to do for her third album.’ Completely misunderstood and to make sure that didn’t bother me and that’s your decision. It has to be water off a duck’s back. You persevere because you believe you made the right decision.

I’ve made all my decisions as if I’m on my death bed. It’s silly, but I literally lay down. I imagine I’m on my death bed, I look back at my life and I go, ‘Did this decision matter? Did I make a decision that stood for love, that stood for family, that stood for creativity, that stood for, hopefully, pursuing that bar of excellence that’s in my mind, that is always driving every artist to try and push themselves to keep creating?’ That’s not a digital photo, that’s something that you don’t see how that develops, I think, to your last breath. I really want my life…I want myself to be my best work of art. I don’t want to get on my death bed and look back and go, ‘I wrote great songs,’ or, ‘I sold an extra million albums,’ or, ‘I hope my whole life looks like art.’ That means I have to pay attention to my parenting, and I have to pay attention to my relationships and I have to myself as a human and my character and how I’m developing. I want to approach each of those things thoughtfully as I do my writing.

Jewel’s first album in 7 years is near-flawless. It’s an album full of hope, full of encouragement, full of inspiration, full of passion, full of joy, and full of love. God is moving through Freewheelin’ Woman, and we all need to listen to this album to fully experience God moving and just a smidgen of God’s infinite and unending love. Jewel has just had a rebirth here- and this album has inspired me to check out the rest of her discography. But more than that, I will eagerly anticipate Jewel’s music going forward… and you all should to. So as we all wait and anticipate what Jewel has in store next, let us all remember that music warms the heart, heals the spirit and soothes the soul. This album especially. Well done Jewel, I can’t wait to hear what’s next for you!

3 songs to listen to: Grateful, No More Tears, Love Wins

Score: 5/5

RIYL: Sarah McLachlan, Ed Sheeran, Natalie Hemby, Needtobreathe, Sheryl Crow, The Chicks

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