By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
Jars of Clay is getting older; and with age comes peace; and with peace comes relaxation.
Okay, so the Christian quartet that formed in 1994 isn’t that old (the band members all hover around 30), but the relaxation part holds true. If you don’t believe that, one spin of Jars of Clay’s new album, “Who We Are Instead,” will change-and ease-your mind.
“Who We Are Instead,” a self-produced, 13-song album, is the band’s first release of all-new material since March 2002’s “The Eleventh Hour,” and comes as an effort to go back to the band’s acoustic beginnings in Jars’ 1994 self-titled debut album.
“We were excited to just sit in a room and re-embrace the simple acoustic process that got us started,” Jars’ lead singer Dan Haseltine wrote on the band’s Web site. “What has emerged, we hope, is an album that is organic and soulful and an honest expression of the things we believe.”
In doing this, Jars didn’t touch one electric guitar and instead created a folky, acoustic sound by using an array of strings and percussion of the early Caedmon’s Call variety.
The bluegrassy sound, Haseltine told RELEVANT magazine, came from an effort to defy the failures in the Christian music industry and create a simple, traditional feel.
“You’ve got 90 percent of the Christian music world that can’t sell the Gospel to save their lives,” Haseltine said. “It’s just not real; it’s just not substantive.”
“Who We Are Instead” picked up its name from the track “Trouble Is,” which sounds like it belongs on the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack. The song’s lyrics tell us what the trouble is: we often don’t know who we are in Christ, a problem with many of today’s Christians.
The album’s other tracks focus around our great sin, God’s grace, Jesus’ jealous love and our love for Him.
The album’s best track, “Show You Love,” hooks listeners with its catchy chorus and inspiration. Meanwhile, the second-best track, “Jealous Kind,” grabs you with sorrow, emotion and hope.
The unique track “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet,” a simple loop of the aforementioned words, came from songwriter Gavin Bryars’ 72-minute recording of a homeless man singing the phrase over and over. The band, which formed the Blood:Water Mission (a fundraiser for the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa), said it will donate the proceeds of the song to the hurting in Africa:
“Though they suffer, they overwhelm us with their life and their joy,” the band writes inside the album jacket.
Coincidentally, that sounds like an accurate theme for “Who We Are Instead.”