In the mid 90’s I’d often buy a CD based on a gut feeling or based on the cover art. It wasn’t an exact science, but in early 1995 I picked up the debut album by Jewel called Pieces Of You. Hipster alert – that was a full 18 months before the album started to become a huge hit. Anyway, at the time Jewel seemed to be marketed to the Lilith Fair alternative crowd which was (and still is) something I quite like. In all honesty, I don’t think the record company had any idea what to do with her. An album full of acoustic songs that hinted at pop but bathed in ultra personal lyrics. I didn’t (and still don’t) think it was a masterpiece, but there are 7 or 8 songs from that record that I’ve played over and over throughout the last 20 years. The tracks played live or cut as b-sides during that era were also very strong, leaving open the possibility of an entire alternate album made up of non album tracks. Sad to say, but I have had a hard time relating to anything else Jewel has released in the same way as that debut album. When I happened to see something promoting her latest record as a sequel of sorts to her debut, I couldn’t help but get a tad excited to give it a spin (or shuffle, as it were). Picking Up The Pieces more than meets the high points of her debut – it just may be the finest record Jewel has released to date.
I have to be honest – I’ve always had a weak spot for female acoustic folk type music. I think it began in the early 90’s with the release of the first Jewel record, Pieces of You. I bought the CD well before any of the songs were played on the radio (what a hipster thing to say) and fell in love with almost 3/4 of the record. So began my pursuit of following female artists that followed that mold – folk based with insanely catchy melodies and lyrics that resonate. To be honest, this is a hard position to straddle – what works for some artists can easily come off as boring music paired with bad poetry (no names, it is all in the eye of the beholder). Amy Hill hails from Brighton, England and her debut album, Place of Mind, is an album that recalls early Jewel while retaining its own unique charm.