Jars of Clay put out their self-titled major label debut back in 1995. Over the years they became one of CCM’s most creative bands, producing such songs as: ‘Flood’, ‘Crazy Times’, ‘I Need You’, and ‘Dead Man (Carry Me)’. In 2009 the band released their ninth full length album, THE LONG FALL BACK TO EARTH (Gray Matters/Essential). It was nominated for a Grammy for ‘Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album’ and won the Dove for ‘Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year’. It peaked at #1 on Billboard’s Hot Christian Albums chart and at #29 on the Billboard 200. Jars of Clay is: Dan Haseltine, Charlie Lowell, Stephen Mason, and Matthew Odmark.
First up is ‘The Long Fall’, a beautiful instrumental shy of two and a half minutes. It’s one of eleven songs penned solely by the band. ‘Weapons’ is a pop/rock song that uses a choir comprised of the band, Ben Shive, and Joshua V. Smith. It urges kindness: “Hallelujah, we can finally see/How the bitterness was bruising on our skin/We didn’t notice that grace had run so thin/Till we’re falling apart and the cracks in our hearts let the truth sink in/Lay your weapons down (2X)/There are no enemies in front of you”.
The album’s lead single, ‘Two Hands’, was nominated for a Dove for ‘Song of the Year’. It’s one of three here written by the band, Jeremy Lutito, and Gabe Rushcival. It’s one of my fave Jars of Clay pop songs! I love these words: “I have a broken disposition/I’m a liar who thirsts for the truth/And while I ache for faith to hold me/I need to feel the scars and see the proof/I use one hand to pull you closer/The other to push you away/If I had two hands doing the same thing/Lifted high, lifted high”. The album’s second single is ‘Heaven’. Here’s the chorus to this rock song: “And find, glowing on the inside/Heaven’s not that far/Glowing on the inside/Showing on the inside/It’s growing where we are”.
‘Closer’ is a cool love song: “I’ll drop out of the race for more personal space/Cause the rockets we’re in get so cold and I miss your skin/It’s just how I’m feeling/If you need more love, well you’ve gotta get close to me/If you want my love, well you’ve gotta get closer to me/No unreachable itch, if you hemorrhage I’ll stitch/You are tears, I’m a cheek/I’m a pail on your boat with slow leaks/Out to sea for weeks”. ‘Safe to Land’ is a wonderful ballad about relationships: “I’m coming home, I’m waking you up/In the middle of the night, I’m not giving up/I’m gonna stay till we make it work/We’re not going down even if it gets worse/We’ll work it out/Yeah, we’ll work it out/I need your light/Guide me in/Is it safe?”
Katie Herzig contributes vocals on the next two songs. ‘Headphones’ is a sad commentary on society: “I don’t have to hear it if I don’t want to/I can drown this out, pull the curtains down on you/It’s a heavy world, it’s too much for me to care/If I close my eyes, it’s not there/With my headphones on (4X).../I take in the war-fires and I’m chilled by the current events/It’s so hopeless, but there’s a pop song in my/Headphones on”. ‘Don’t Stop’ is a terrific sounding 80’s pop number. It includes these words: “My recurring dream of you/Starlight in your eyes and music everywhere/I am dancing close to you/There are no days or nights we’ve left behind”.
‘Boys (Lesson One)’ is a touching song from father to son: “Lesson one-do not hide/Lesson two-there are right ways to fight/And if you have questions we can talk through the night/So you know who you are/And you know what you want/I’ve been where you’re going/And it’s not that far/It’s too far to walk/But you don’t have to run/You’ll get there in time/Lesson three-you’re not alone”. ‘Hero’ acknowledges spiritual need: “We need a hero to save us from ourselves/Save us from ourselves/Save us from our fear/When the sirens wail we need a hero here!/We hide on our knees in silence/Maybe God doesn’t hear at all/And the wait overtakes the violence/And we watch as the giants fall/We’re not gonna let it end this way”.
Next up is ‘Scenic Route’, a nice pop song. I like these lyrics: “We’re just sitting like novels we’ve picked up but never read through/You think you know my ending/i think I know yours too/You see, nowhere in these conversations is there anything new/Even though we know the sun will rise/Every ray of light still takes us by, by surprise”. ‘There Might Be a Light’, a song of romantic longing, is next: “There is no delusion/To you I don’t exist/I am only shadow/Only a ghost can wait as long as I have for this/And I, I can’t wait much longer/Cause there might be a light/Somewhere in your mind/When you think of you and I/I know there will be a light/It might not burn very strong/But I know it’s coming on”.
‘Forgive Me’ is addressed to one’s partner: “For every town there is a crier, like a thief in every choir/And when I think of the mistakes I’ve made/All my transgressions on a big parade/As far as the eye can see/As deep as the heart can be/Such an impossibility that you would forgive me/Forgive me”. Last up, on this standard edition of the album is ‘Heart’, which almost runs six minutes long. It’s a light pop song with these nice thoughts: “One flag left to burn, one country to fall/One soul to pour out, one love to catch all/No walls to defend, wars to align/Give me your heart, you already have mine/No mountains to climb, papers to sign/Offer your heart/I’ve given you mine”.
THE LONG FALL BACK TO EARTH is an artistic success and a real treat for the ears. It`s alternative adult pop/rock music accompanied by Dan Haseltine’s stellar vocals. Songs about spiritual themes and spiritual growth are equal in number to those about male-female relationships. Other themes covered are: isolation, loving our fellow man, and the relationship between fathers and sons. There are so many terrific songs here! It’s one of my favorite Jars of Clay albums. I’m rating it 100%! For more info visit: www.jarsofclay.com