Americana Flavor In Full Force| Posted January 30, 2008
Jars of Clay have often claimed that their records begin with a question. The group's studio release, Who We Are Instead, tackles the issue of who we are truly called to be as Christians in a world that is not our home. Gracefully balancing the mirror themes of joy and suffering, the band maintains their distinctive harmonies and signature guitar sounds while musically exploring gospel, blues, rock and organic influences. While exploration with various sounds is not out of the ordinary for this band (their musical landscape evolves with each release), this is the first time since their 1995 debut that it has felt comfortable from beginning to end. A big surprise on the record lies right in the center. "Trouble Is" captures the Americana flavor of the record in full force, and you can't help but wonder if Jars is toying with the idea of becoming the next Soggy Bottom Boys of O Brother, Where Art Thou. They pull off the southern gospel flavor wonderfully. The standout track on Who We Are Instead is the infectious "Show You Love," one of the best pop singles from the band in recent years. Who We Are Instead fails to provide a song to jam to, but in it's stripped down simplicity you find a peace and joy that is akin to quiet times spent with God. It is there that Jars of Clay lands in the latest offering from a popular group that redefines its sound with each release...this time, for the better.
Who We Are Instead| Posted October 09, 2008
I can't help but think this 5th release by Jars of Clay feels a bit disjointed. They've fully moved into 'folk' territory and if someone were to ask me for an album that 'feels like autumn', this would be it. The acoustic guitars dominate and you really aren't sure what to expect. Even still that isn't entirely a bad thing. Sure, there are few tracks fit for the radio stations but that's not the be all end all of music. The first track, 'Sunny Days', is an incredibly uplifting one about how even if everything is going wrong there is a bright side. Seeing as that's how I try and live my life I instantly connected to it. Maybe Jars of Clay, and more to the point, Who We Are Instead,isn't for everybody but I just have that personal connection with their lyrics that can create an enjoyment out of something so little. Tracks like 'Jealous Kind' and 'Lesser Things' just resonate with me and it goes beyond their brilliant buildup of emotion before a choir kicks in.
The organ plays a big role in a few of the songs too. 'Amazing Grace' isn't the same one you know, but instead their spin on the whole subject. Though like the original 'Amazing Grace' song, this one is very moving. The lyrics take center stage in 'Jealous Kind' as Dan sings:
i built another temple to a stranger
i gave away my heart to the rushing wind
i set my course to run right into danger
i sought the company of fools instead of friends
That's just one verse before the powerful chorus (courtesy of a violin and more piano) reminds us:
you know i've been unfaithful
with lovers in lines
while you're turning over tables
with the rage of a jealous kind
i chose the gallows to the aisle
thought that love would never find
hanging ropes will never keep you
and your love of a jealous kind
love of a jealous kind
Dan is one of the best lyricists of the Christian music scene if you value brutal honesty with the precision of a surgeon's knife as shown above, wonderful imagery ('Amazing Grace'), and his poetic nature that doesn't need to rhyme in order to flow. The music always backs this up with powerful chords and an organ that sweeps you away. Had a bad day? Pop this baby in and dare to have an open mind. Before long you'll be glad you did and the day you just had will seem small and insignificant to a bigger picture. Shouldn't that be the purpose of music?
Gems of this album are: 'Jealous Kind', 'Sunny Days', 'Lesser Things', 'Amazing Grace'
Not at first, but won me over| Posted October 26, 2007
Well, I didn't like the different sound of Jars of Clay on this album when I first purchased the CD, but it was awesome the more I listened. Powerfully God-Centered songs with incredible creativity.