ESP Online Magazine Reviews Furthermore
JARS OF CLAY
FROM THE STUDIO TO THE STAGE AT WAKE FOREST
BY Jaysen Buterin
Musicians often say that a song is never truly "done," that they only run out of time. Songs that are familiar to both performer and audience are given new life when they are tweaked, rearranged and sometimes reinvented from the ground up. There is both great beauty and great function in recasting old songs and inserting new songs into the always-changing dynamic of live performance. Jars of Clay wanted their songs to do more, so now they give us Furthermore. This new double-disc project, subtitled From The Studio; From The Stage, gives us a unique look at the talents of this now-veteran band -- two unique looks, actually, as one disc contains brand-new, acoustic-driven reworkings of classic Jars of Clay tunes, while the other disc endeavors to capture the energy found only in the band's high-octane live show. The latter, one supposes, is the show that will grace the stage at Wait Chapel on the campus of Wake Forest University on Wednesday, April 2.
"We wanted to do a live record because a lot of the songs on the records translate even better in a live setting," says vocalist Dan Haseltine. "At the same time, the acoustic stuff is where I think we shine as a band, even more than the rock element. We started as a band playing in coffeehouses and things like that; it's really where we cut our teeth as musicians."
Adds guitarist Stephen Mason, "Some of it has to do with what people have asked for, as well as just finding a balance of what songs are on the de facto `greatest hits' list, the standards that people have come to expect to hear. And then there are the songs we've loved over the years and felt could be reinterpreted a certain way, like `Overjoyed' (originally found on the band's second studio effort, Much Afraid) a song we really loved but have always wondered what it would have been like another way."
The project's From The Studio disc finds the members -- Haseltine, Mason, keyboardist Charlie Lowell and guitarist Matt Odmark -- peeling back the layers of their own career, stripping down songs from across their catalog, from "Liquid," the very first track on their multi-platinum debut Jars of Clay, to "Something Beautiful" and "The Eleventh Hour," tunes from their latest studio record, The Eleventh Hour. Two new songs are also included, the haunting "The Valley Song (Sing Of Your Mercy)" and "Redemption," which Mason describes as an exercise in creative immediacy.
"On the last record, we started writing songs in the morning, and by midday, we'd start committing them to tape. We'd come up with things that got us really excited, and `Redemption' is one of those deals where we spent the entire morning just running into walls, and it's one of those things that show what you can do when you stick to it while you struggle to get there," he says. "We thought it'd be an interesting treat for those people who are more fans of the art side of what we do."
In listening to the songs, both new and familiar, that make up the From The Studio section of Furthermore, you're reminded of what captured your attention about Jars of Clay in the first place: the harmonies, the hooks, the imagery of the lyrics. Haseltine says that was a very deliberate part of why the band wanted to rework some of their most familiar tunes.
Both halves of the Furthermore project were born from a single desire -- to give fans of Jars of Clay a new way to relate to the band's music. "Sometimes at shows, we'll sit down and if we're feeling a little bit saucy, we'll say, `Hey, what do you guys want to hear?'" Haseltine says. "It'll be Matt and Steve on acoustic guitars and me with a mike and they'll always call out these obscure songs they want to hear us play, and we'll have to say, `Uh ... we really can't do that. Anybody else have a request?' So this is a chance for us to go back and rediscover some of those songs people want to hear, and play them how we would do them in a live setting versus how we'd do them on a record."
But in the end, it's all about the retelling of stories already told, of songs already and yet to be sung, and the ongoing writing of the tale of a band constantly on the road of discovery.
Jars of Clay
(with Caedmon's Call)
Wednesday, April 2