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Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Jars of Clay -- The Shelter

 photo JarsOfClayShelter_zps209206a0.jpg

Striking again when the iron was hot, Jars of Clay released The Shelter barely a year after their previous release, The Long Fall Back to Earth. Never content to do the same thing twice, The Shelter marks another first in Jars of Clay's impressive, extensive catalogue. The Shelter is Jars of Clay's first album to be written directly toward and for The Church. The songs explore the Body of Christ's parts' relationship with each other, while uniting those parts in worship. It's another stunning achievement in a catalogue full of stunning achievements.
Jars of Clay again fuse their excellent songwriting with a new style. The biggest influence on this album sounds like Arcade Fire, with all the group singing and focus on community. There are two slight departures which serve as improvements here, though, and I don't mean to knock Arcade Fire, a pretty good band in their own right. The first departure is that everyone featured on this album can sing. Anyone who has ever listened to an Arcade Fire album knows that singing isn't that band's strong suit, no matter how many people are standing at the mic. Jars of Clay somehow assembled a massive who's who in the Christian music industry to sing along on this album, and every guest leaves their mark. Even tobyMac, who's solo work has not exactly been my cup of tea, wanders through the title track to drop a line, and comes off sounding a bit like Bambi's father. You know, he doesn't come around often, but when he does, he seems so wizened and powerful, you have to listen to him. The Prince of the Forest.
The second departure is that Jars of Clay actually have a cause to rally around. I'm not knocking generalized unity, togetherness, and whatever it is Arcade Fire are yelling about into megaphones, but in the end, I find that to be a bit empty. With a stated common goal of worship, The Shelter is more cohesive and focused than anything put out by the band I've been comparing to this album.
At this point, though, 20 years into their career, Jars of Clay need be compared to no one. They've created nine unique and wonderful albums (well, expect for that one I don't like very much), and they're as high on the music mountain as anyone making it these days.

2010 Gray Matters/Essential Records
1. Small Rebellions (featuring Brandon Heath) 4:48
2. Call My Name (featuring Thad Cockrell, Audrey Assad) 4:08
3. We Will Follow (featuring Gungor) 4:09
4. Eyes Wide Open (featuring Mac Powell (of Third Day), Derek Webb, Burlap to Cashmere) 4:28
5. Shelter (featuring Brandon Heath, Audrey Assad, tobyMac) 4:50
6. Out of My Hands (featuring Leigh Nash, Mike Donehey (of Tenth Avenue North)) 4:14
7. No Greater Love 4:07
8. Run In The Night (Psalm 27) (featuring Thad Cockrell) 5:25
9. Lay It Down (featuring David Crowder, Dawn Michele (of Fireflight)) 4:03
10. Love Will Find Us (featuring Sara Groves, Matt Maher) 5:45
11. Benediction (featuring Amy Grant) 2:52

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