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Story and Photos By Andy ArgyrakisMany may associate Jewel as strictly a folk-tinged troubadour who helped revive the women in rock movement of the '90s right alongside the like-minded Lilith Fair cast, but there's actually a lot more in her arsenal than the average listener probably realizes. For starters, she's made a successful foray towards country in recent years, released a children's record (that parents could actually enjoy as well), co-hosted the songwriter-themed reality show "Platinum Hit" and even played a pretty convincing June Carter Cash in the Lifetime flick "Ring Of Fire."
As a result, a tour supporting her first ever (and long overdue) "Greatest Hits" collection was a little bit country, a little bit pop/roots rock and pretty much everything in between, all united by a deeply introspective but still highly palatable writing style. Her inaugural appearance at summer's ultimate concert destination Ravinia kicked off on the easygoing pop route with "Near You Always," which found the 39-year-old looking and sounding radiant, even with mere solo acoustic backing and after admitting she was a bit horse (although it rarely showed).
The trip through past and present continued with the recent acoustic delicacy "Two Hearts Breaking" and the gorgeous ballad "Hands," preceded by a colorful story of how she literally shoplifted food during her years as a struggling and essentially homeless artist. In fact, the tales were sometimes just as compelling as the tunes, like a mound of outrageous antidotes about her Alaskan upbringing, hitchhiking through Mexico as a mere teenager, touring with her hero Bob Dylan later in life and even having a trio of prostitutes decide whether she or co-writer Steve Poltz should get first crack at putting "You Were Meant For Me" on their respective records.
Musically, the troubadour also made waves with the breezy "Standing Still" and the catchy "Intuition," the latter of which was given a welcome rootsy rearrangement after being known on record as a more disposable Top 40-tailored tune. Even with so many familiar songs, the crown jewel (no pun intended) of her catalogue remains 1995's blockbuster debut disc "Pieces Of You" and she obliged with all its major touchstones like "Foolish Games" and "Who Will Save Your Soul." Chances are Jewel won't ever be able to eclipse that commercial peak, but her sheer versatility is sure to sustain an impressive career that continues to evolve with sophisticated songwriting and witty storytelling.
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