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Jars of Clay develop new style ‘instead’

Rebecca Saunders | Wednesday, February 18, 2004

As one of the best known Contemporary Christian bands in the industry today, Jars of Clay, a four piece band originally from Illinois, had quite an expectation to live up to when they recorded their fifth original album, Who We Are Instead. The title sounds like a question without a question mark and that is precisely because by the end of the album, that question, in terms of the band, is answered. Who We Are Instead is a large departure from the previous Jars of Clay albums. There is no “Flood,” “Love Song for a Savior” or “I Need You” on this album. As far as comparable songs, many of the songs on the album sound similar to “The Valley Song (Sing of Your Mercy),” which was released on Furthermore, the greatest hits/new songs album Jars of Clay toured with last year. This change is by no means a bad thing, but it is unquestionably different from what many Jars of Clay fans may have been expecting.Of this supposed musical change on Who We Are Instead, Jars of Clay feels that it has not changed that much. In fact, “they are happier with the new album than ever, and feel that a lot of people may hold memories from the times when the first album came out, and have a nostalgic feeling about it now. If anything, the band has purposefully changed their sound slightly because they must change with the times, and not continue to write songs that sound exactly like “Flood.”‘ Who We Are Instead carries themes of bluegrass and old gospel in more than half of the songs. This album is a step away from rock for Jars of Clay and a step toward more adult contemporary sound of Christian music. The band is maturing along with its fans and is undeniably aging well. Lyrically, the album is terrific, deep and moving. Jars of Clay has often claimed to begin its albums with a question, and 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.” The band found answers in songs like the slow, acoustic, bluegrass-toned “Only Alive,” with lead singer Dan Haseltine claiming, “I’m only alive with you / I won’t get by and I won’t get through.” “Faith Enough,” another high point on the album, is a bluesy song inspired by a line from Ernest Hemingway’s novel A Farewell to Arms: “The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” The lyrics bring up issues of weakness bringing greater faith: “This body frail enough for fighting / I’m home enough to know I’m lost” and ultimately asks the question, “Should the world rely on faith tonight” at the end of the chorus. “Show You Love,” “Jealous Kind,” “Sunny Days” and “Sing” are also standout songs on the album.In their fifth original record, Jars of Clay show exactly who they are instead. This is not a band that sings upbeat rock songs for entertainment, but instead committed Christian artists whose musical styles change, just as their faith grows and matures in their lives. While it may not be a classic Jars of Clay album, any real fan will grow to love the album as soon as the initial shock wears off.

Contact Rebecca Saunders at rsaunder@nd.edu