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Jewel

Perfectly Clear – 2008 (Valory Music)

Reviewed by Robert Loy

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CDs by Jewel

The charge of opportunism could be laid at Jewel's door. "Perfectly Clear" comes after the disappointing sales of her previous CD, "Goodbye Alice in Wonderland" (her first album not to go gold.) And she's flirted with different genres in the past, as on the "modern big band" sound of "0304." On the other hand, it may be that Jewel's always been at least - like another famous Utah-born singer - a little bit country.

And it may not matter because whatever Jewel's motives and whatever your thoughts about her country cred, it would be hard to argue that "Perfectly Clear" is not a country album. Jewel possesses a breathy, distinctive voice, sort of like a less-manic Jennifer Nettles. Some songs like "Till It Feels Like Cheating" are obviously country. Others - like the deep-longing "Everything Reminds Me Of You" - reveal their roots on repeated listenings. And Jewel does do some yodeling. (But thankfully not a lot.)

The problem is that "Perfectly Clear" may be too much like a lot of modern country music. It is marred by bland arrangements (somewhat surprising considering that maverick John Rich co-produced) - the second single "I Do" is one of the few on the album that could be considered catchy. And to put it kindly the lyrics don't break any new ground. There are a few too many sound-alike love songs and the female-power anthem "Stronger Woman" - with its lyrics about self-love and being your own best friend - could have been cribbed from a 70's self-help book. Sorry, Jewel. "Perfectly Clear" may be country but it's not a gem.