Sweet and Wild [Deluxe Edition]
Unlike her dance-pop makeover 304, Jewel's 2008 country excursion provided a perfect pivot back toward the soothing, strumalong folk that made the singer/songwriter a star. She alludes to this as much with the title of Sweet & Wild, a collection that is surely as sweet as sugar and just about as wild, too. Not so much abandoning her brief country dalliance as using it as flavoring -- diluting it to a much greater degree than the already mildly twangy Perfectly Clear -- Jewel is able to ease into a set of songs that have no concept, arguably for the first time in well over a decade. Without a stylistic device or narrative throughline, Jewel seems a bit at ease, spinning out sentimental tales, usually about love but sometimes about social issues, such as advanced age. Jewel tends to be a bit heavy-handed in her message and delivery, resorting to the throaty growl that tends to obscure her hooks and intent, but she's saved here -- on both the produced main album and its bare-bones acoustic cousin on the deluxe version, which isn't as different as it might initially appear -- by her essential sweetness, which shines through in her melody and mellow moods that aren't sullied by a hint of wildness.