It makes sense for Jars of Clay to take on the challenge of re-imagining traditional hymns in modern terms. The band’s affinity for folk melodies and classical shadings allows it to step away from pop modes and connect with time-honored traditions on 2005’s Redemption Songs. This isn’t to say that the album is a staid affair — the versions found here of “Nothing But the Blood” (recorded with the legendary Blind Boys of Alabama) and “I’ll Fly Away” (featuring Sarah Kelly) offer quick cures for the spiritual blahs. They reconfigure “I Need Thee Every Hour” as a spacey country-rocker, offer “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand” as an Appalachian march, and transform “Jesus, I Lift My Eyes” as an easy-going acoustic shuffle. “They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love” — a hymn of more recent vintage — gains an austere power through the band’s brooding treatment. Not everything works equally well (“Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder” feels overly sleek for instance) but Redemption Songs succeeds in recasting gems of faith in sympathetic and creative new settings.
God Be Merciful to Me
I Need Thee Every Hour
God Will Lift Up Your Head
I'll Fly Away
Nothing But the Blood
Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder
O Come and Mourn With Me Awhile (Our Lord Is Crucified)