Hardscrabble tales from her coffeehouse days aside, Jewel has always been more diligent pop craftswoman than pure folkie. As such, she’s firing on all cylinders on "Standing Still," the lead single from her third album and a tender lullaby that polishes the heartbroken lilt of her old hit "You Were Meant for Me" to a teary-eyed sheen. The days of Lilith Fair may be long gone, but radio will always make room for lonely-girl emoting with melodies this pretty.
The rest of the disc is a similarly slick roots-pop production that’s occasionally marred by overwrought singing and lyrical self-indulgence. Ace producer Dann Huff draws on his Nashville background for the country-rockin’ "Everybody Needs Someone Sometime," and Jewel matches him with an extra twang in her voice and a few tawdry tales of roadhouse romance. She’s got plenty of other good stories, too; it’s her bestselling poetic side that sometimes drags things down. But the songs always sound great, especially the standout ballads "Break Me" and "I Won’t Walk Away." The latter sports an engagingly mushy chorus that turns unexpectedly dark at the end, hinting at the serious artist who lurks behind the glamorous veil of Jewel’s pop stardom.