Who We Are Instead
In some ways, Jars of Clay’s 2003 album Who We Are Instead is comparable with U2’s classic The Joshua Tree. Both albums lean towards a country-rock sound, defined by sparse arrangements and pared-down lyrics. In the Jars’ case, the moodier aspects of this approach are tempered with upbeat power-pop influences and a certain resolute innocence. “Sunny Days” and “I’m In the Way” glide on buoyant melodies as they convey a reassuring Christian message. A grittier, more unsettled note pervades “Amazing Grace” (an original, not the classic hymn) and “Jealous Kind,” songs that contrast mortal weakness with God’s unchanging love. Some of the best moments here are the most reflective and subdued, such as the starkly evocative “Faith Enough” and “My Heavenly.” Just as effective is a sparkling cover of America’s “Lonely People,” showcasing the band’s smoothly matched harmonies. Acoustic guitar, mandolin and electric piano dominate the arrangements, with programmed drums giving tracks like “Trouble Is” a techno twist, and Ashley Cleveland’s commanding gospel vocals makes their presence felt on several tracks.