Review Summary: The best debut I've ever heard from a Christian alternative band... ever!
Sadly, this is as good as Jars of Clay ever got or will ever get. They won't ever capture the listener's mind with the catchiest of acoustic guitar parts mixed with the compliments of drum loops. The strings add a whole epic sound to the music, which mixed with the guitars and drum loops, make a defined sound that will characterize Jars of Clay away from any other type of music I, at least, have ever heard. The best description I can give their sound would be alternative folk. This self-titled beauty really captivates the mind for the entirety of its length and sends the listener into a musical bliss that can't be described. Hopefully others feel this peaceful nirvana I happen to encounter every time I hear this true masterpiece.
Dan Haseltine-Vocals, drum loops
Matt Odmark-Acoustic guitar, drum loops
Stephen Mason-Acoustic guitar, bass guitar, mandolin, background vocals, drum loops
Charlie Lowell-Organ, keyboards, piano, background vocals, drum loops
Three men, Dan, Matt, and Charlie, all whom were friends, majored in "Contemporary Christian Music" in college and had a specific passion for creative, original music. They tried many small projects, but none ever got off their feet. One glorious day however, they met a man with similar music interests, Stephen Mason. They recorded demos and tried to define a sound that hadn't been abused yet. They were all avid christians who wanted to join the ranks of the Steven Curtis Chapman's, DC Talk's, Amy Grant's and Michael W. Smith's, who all dominated the early christian contemporary scene. The only difference between these other hit Christian artists and Jars of Clay is the fact that JoC's musical style will grab fans, christian or not, who enjoyed fantastic instrumental journeys and melodic, but not overpowering, vocals. They were quickly signed to Essential records and produced their self-titled debut, Jars of Clay.
Most, whom know the band, know them for the songs "Flood" and "Like a Child". "Flood" is and will always be my favorite Jars of Clay song, and is one of my top 10 songs to this day. The lead guitar part is easily the catchiest the band will ever achieve. I remember being 5 years old and trying to pretend playing this on an umbrella in the back of my dad's truck (God never intended for me to play any type of guitar). The limited drums keep the eerie feel and Dan's vocals match the feel perfectly. Stephen's added vocals on the pre-chorus and chorus blend well and add extra emphasis to those parts. The cello and violin in the bridge always gave me chills as a kid and change the normal styled bridge from the usual sound of being at or above the volume of the chorus. "Like a Child" is another favorite with some of the best lyrics on the album. The acoustic guitars mix great together with limited lead guitar and much more rhythm guitar than in most other tracks. The chorus brings in a great sounding drum loop and the lyrics show the obvious christian influence behind the music, quoting famous bible verses and stories. The kids brought into the bridge also leaves me smiling every time I hear them saying generic kind phrases.
The other highlights I must mention are "Love Song for a Savior", "Boy on a String", and "World's Apart". Besides "Boy on a String", theses songs contain great imagery and mellow music that combine to create an enjoyable audible experience. The chorus of "Love Song for a Savior" may seem cliche, but you can feel the passion in Dan's voice that makes this feel genuine. Whomever they brought in to sing the female parts in the chorus of "World's Apart" also perform to perfection. "Boy on a String" follows the feel of the first two songs mentioned in the third paragraph, except for the strings playing a much more vital part in the organization of the musical parts. The intro shows the ability to use strings as the lead focus and how the acoustic parts can stay original but not overpower the rest of the song. The verses are a great example of this, especially with the upbeat tempo. The chorus combines the two singers voice for a great memorable moment off the album. The bridge is a favorite of mine with the lines "Just a boy" fading and fading while the strings play their lead part. They really show how well these instruments complement each other in this song specifically.
In conclusion, this is my childhood favorite album. You would think, because I said this, that this album is a simple copy of any other band mother's made their overprotected kids listen to. This is not Nickelback, Daughtry, or any other generic band with a recycled sound that bores the listener quickly. Jars of Clay's sound will satisfy the musical appetite for anyone who wishes for there to be true meaning behind the music, accompanied by instrumentals that take the listener on a ride to a land filled with peace, beauty, and lots of well tuned acoustic guitars.
Love Song for a Savior: 5/5
Like a Child: 5/5
Art In Me: 4/5
Boy on a String: 5/5
Four Seven: 3/5