Jars of Clay [The Shelter] | Posted September 28, 2010
Acclaimed for its music and leadership as humanitarians, Jars of Clay gears up for the October 5th release of its community-inspired project, Jars of Clay Presents The Shelter. The four men at the heart of the project – Dan Haseltine, Charlie Lowell, Matt Odmark and Stephen Mason – find their calendars filling up with appearances designed to shed light on the new project, inspired from an old Irish proverb, “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” I am a long-time fan of Jars of Clay and credit the Gospel messages from their landmark debut album for leading me to my salvation, for which I’m eternally grateful. I was amazed that as I was still savoring The Long Fall Back To Earth and trying to guess which single would be next from that incredible album, I heard about The Shelter. At first, I couldn’t image how they would follow-up what I considered their all-time best album, and yet again they continue to surprise and amaze me with their song-writing, music and lyrical messages and in this case, their collaborations. For anyone who has always wanted to hear Jars of Clay sing with a “who’s who list” in Christian music, here’s your chance. Mac Powell, Amy Grant, Brandon Heath, David Crowder, Audrey Assad, TobyMac, Mike Donehey, Sara Groves, Derek Webb and Leigh Nash all appear on this album, among others.
For me, there are several 5 star songs that give glimpses of the excellence of this 5 star album. All of these songs now rank in my all-time favorite songs by Jars of Clay. The album opens with the call to action song, “Small Rebellions” which features Brandon Heath. The song includes the ultra-catchy and convicting chorus “If our days could be filled with small rebellions, senseless brutal acts of kindness from us all.” The song truly sets the tone for this incredible album.“ Dan says, “Any act that fights against isolation is the greatest form of counterculture. The greatest risks we take are the ones that prove we are implicated in each others stories.” “Call My Name” features Thad Cockrell and Audrey Assad and is the most vertical worship song on the album. Matt says, “To think that God knows us by name has deep and far-reaching implications. To actually hear Him use it changes everything.” “We Will Follow” begins with the amazing lyrics “In the valley of the cross where my first love died” which leads to the convicting “where You lead us we will follow.” The song features Michael and Lisa Gungor singing along with the band. This is a match made in heaven and for me is the stand-out song on the album. I would love to sing this song with fellow believers. “Eyes Wide Open” has a very classic Jars of Clay folk-oriented sound and features Mac Powell and Derek Webb. This song could totally have appeared on the City On A Hill compilations and will most likely emerge as a hit song as it is catchy and very engaging. Charlie says “Our desire is to be in a conversation- about love, hope, the life of Jesus- not to figure out answers and put people in boxes. God, keep us in the process, with open eyes and hearts.”
“Shelter” is an incredible song with a wonderful chorus “in the shelter of each other we will live” and Audrey Assad’s background vocals on the chorus are absolutely excellent. TobyMac and Brandon Heath also appear on the song with Toby echoing “we will live.” This song also seems destined to be a hit and I can’t get enough of it. I plan to make the song my new ringtone replacing “Two Hands” as my new favorite anthem by Jars of Clay. “Out Of My Hands” was released as a single and features Mike Donehey and Leigh Nash, another amazing vocal combination. The lyrics are totally compelling, “It’s out of my hands, it was from the start in light of what You’ve done for me.” Steve says, “It's humbling to know in our lowest moments that God's purposes are made complete in and through our weakness not our strength.” “Lay It Down” features David Crowder and Dawn Michele. This has become one of my favorite songs on the album, especially the rocking guitar solo. A perfect song in my opinion and I can’t wait to hear Jars of Clay play the song in concert. The album closes brilliantly with “Benediction” featuring Amy Grant. The song finishes the invitation to go out and literally be the hands and feet of Jesus to those we encounter. “Go into the world showing how much He loves you.”
The stand-out songs for me on this brilliant 5 star album are “Small Rebellions,” “Call My Name,” “We Will Follow,” “Eyes Wide Open,” “Shelter,” “Out Of My Hands,” “Lay It Down” and “Benediction.” Once again, Jars of Clay has released their newest “best” album and are at the top of their profession right now in my opinion. My best description of the album is The Eleventh Hour meets Redemption Songs splashed with City On A Hill style all-star guest vocalist appearances and worship focused lyrics. While celebrated for its music and writing, Jars of Clay is most concerned with the needs in Africa. Compelled to make a difference, the group successfully launched the Blood:Water Mission, a non-profit organization promoting clean blood and water in Africa.
Rating: 9.9 out of 10 (99%, A+)
Review written by: Kevin Davis | Review can also be found here.
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