Jars of Clay – The Inland Review


It has been almost three years since Jars of Clay released Shelter, a disc which Glenn McCarty of Crosswalk.com heralded as “a clarion call to unity” relative to the Christian community. Lead singer Dan Haseltine noted, “…we were already thinking about a project that would be specific for the church.” But on Inland, their first release as an “indie” band, the central focus is a bit more existential.

In an interview with Hans Schiefelbein, keyboardist Charlie Lowell says of Inland:

It’s where we all live- caring about work, family, faith, doubt, the world around us- but really struggling to connect them and find lasting meaning out of them all. So we approached this record process with that in mind- our goal was to write in those specific moments of humanity, and to put the many voices we have accumulated over the years behind us.

Since 1995 when their debut single “Flood” further closed the gap between pop and Christian music, Jars have been a band that refused to compromise their faith nor their crossover viability. For every directly religious “Love Song for a Savior” there was a more universally accessible “Work“. Yet even amidst the brambles of praise and pop music that is their entire catalog, they always managed to present the subject matter with a poetic elegance so both believer and non-believer alike could take in the experience.

Being Agnostic allowed for a first hand appreciation of Jars’ artisanship, a sentiment which I thought peaked at their 2006 release Good Monsters. It is with great joy that I announce Inland as the new standard. Taking its theme from The Odyssey, the new disc asks the listener to reflect on their pilgrimage through life. The beauty in its presentation is that you do not need to have faith in God for the message to resonate.

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Garbage Day


Over the past three days I attended two showings of a musical called Back in the Boondocks. It was put on by the CrossRoad UMC Arts Academy. The premise of the story is that of a family living in Louisiana. It details their struggles with relationships, alcoholism, friendship, death and faith. Musically the backdrop is solely Country with songs by the likes of Miranda Lambert (Kerosene), Joe Nichols (The Shape I’m In), The Band Perry (If I Die Young), Craig Morgan (Bonfire) and Little Big Town (Boondocks).

As someone who is not a big Country Music fan (yet I feel I am becoming a very selective one as each day passes), and a seasoned agnostic, the existential message disclosed by the production was something to which anyone could relate. For me it was summed up simply as this: we should not be looking for happiness, we should be looking for peace. This production was sharing how that could be found in Christianity and the crowds who I saw it with grasped that to thunderous applause. I saw the message as expanding beyond any one faith or belief system. Encountering, as well all surely have, individuals who do not hold the same life view as we and he who are at peace it serves not to remind us that we are necessarily wrong in our beliefs but that maybe we have gotten a bit off track.

There is one character who loses her farm after her brother signs it over to her seemingly ex-husband in good faith. Then there is that same brother who struggles with returning to Nashville in an effort to revive a successful singing career which he walked away from when his wife died in a tour bus accident. Amidst the messages of forgiveness and repentance I was more hit by the problem of attachment. Of holding on too tightly to something for fear of being without it. Such a crime assumes that beyond the now is not any better. How can we be so arrogant and naive?

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