Album Review :
Jars of Clay - The Shelter

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Band: Jars of Clay
Title: The Shelter
Label: Essential Records
Release Date: 10/5/2010
Reviewer: Joshua Hedlund


  1. Small Rebellions (f. Brandon Heath)
  2. Call My Name (f. Thad Cockrell, Audrey Assad)
  3. We Will Follow (f. Gungor)
  4. Eyes Wide Open (f. Mac Powell, Derek Webb, Burlap To Cashmere)
  5. Shelter (f. TobyMac, Audrey Assad, Brandon Heath)
  6. Out Of My Hands (f. Mike Donehey, Leigh Nash)
  7. No Greater Love
  8. Run In The Night (f. Thad Cockrell)
  9. Lay It Down (f. David Crowder, Dawn Richardson)
  10. Love Will Find Us (f. Sara Groves, Matt Maher)
  11. Benediction (f. Amy Grant)

Before I heard a note of this album, I had read that the latest addition to Jars of Clay’s legacy involved collaborations with other artists on (almost) every song, and I had read that it was a more worshipful project that also focused on community. I admire Jars of Clay for their ability to weather the years with strong songwriting and subtle musical progression, and after a few listens it’s clear that the group is pushing into this new decade without any lost relevance or energy.

We are treated to more pleasant anthems of The Long Fall variety, with those clean guitar strums and bright piano melodies. The lyrical theme is evident from the get-go as the singers exclaim, We will never walk alone again. Meanwhile, the bells and crazy vocal interweaving sound like they were lifted off a Sufjan record. On “We Will Follow,” the enthusiastic chorus chanting Where you lead us we will follow is nothing short of invigorating.

“Eyes Wide Open” pulls back for a more acoustic shuffle, complete with a hand-clapped chorus. The collaborations are remarkably subtle (well, except for Mac Powell’s drawl), and many of them could be missed if you didn’t know about them, often hiding in harmonies that you don’t even discover until the third or fourth listen. This works quite well with the album’s communal theme.

“Out of My Hands” seemed a little too familiar to me (“Weapons”? “Two Hands”?). After all, even with an exciting array of vocal choirs there’s only so much you can do with clean-driving anthemic-pop-rock. Sometimes it’s light and soft and sometimes it’s hard and pounding, but it never strays too far from home. For the most part this album manages to avoid feeling repetitive, but it’s hard to say how much lasting value it will have.

In trademark Jars of Clay fashion, the lines evoke beautiful surrender in both creative and simple terms. “Call My Name” professes, I’ll go when You call me, I run when You tell me where to go / We are desert walkers under shady clouds… Let our idols fail, vanity subside. “Lay It Down” encourages the troubled: It’s a well worn path so how on earth can we feel alone? …Look around / Lay it down.

Overall: The Shelter‘s primary pronouns are “we” and “You.” The variety of voices run through the pleasant pop anthems to create an encouraging expression of believers walking in fellowship and forgiveness and worshipping the same God. Til the dawn starts to break around you, let all the stars in the night remind you… Love will find us all.