Reviewed by Tony Cummings
Having thought the Jars' previous album 'Furthermore: From The Studio From The Stage' a disappointing and disjointed effort, I approached the new album by Christendom's million sellers with considerable unease. But I was utterly won over. Here the band seem to have discovered a fresh vein of creativity, in the unexpected realm of Eagles-style country rock. In fact, Eagles-sounding wistful harmonies and world weary imagery so dominate 'Who We Are Instead' that I can imagine Jars fans who enthused over the move into edgy guitar rock of 'If I Left The Zoo' will regard this effort as a major disappointment. All I can say to them or the those looking for another "Flood" million seller is just enjoy the sense of focus and faith that Dan Haseltine has seemingly rediscovered. His writing here is more direct, Jesus-centred and unencumbered with lyrical obscurity than on any previous release, while his vocals are tender and achingly poignant. My absolute favourite is the wistfully lovely "Amazing Grace" (no, not that one), closely followed by the poignant "Lonely People" and their captivating version of "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet", that stunning song of luminous faith originally brought to the public's attention by a tramp recorded on the streets of London and featured by classical man Gavin Bryars. 'Who We Are Instead' is an album overflowing with musical intelligence and lyrical sincerity. Primarily self-produced in Jars Of Clay's own Sputnik Studio, Ron Aniello (Lifehouse, Barenaked Ladies), Ken Coomer (Wilco) and Ben Mize (Counting Crows) all make contributions. But this is no exercise in slick, Pro-Tools over-production, rather a marvellously understated and uncluttered set where the quality of the songs are left to tell their own story unadorned by technical wizardry. I've no idea whether the Jars' move to country-tinged harmony pop will shift million of units. But whether it does or doesn't, 'Who We Are Instead' is a masterwork as far as I'm concerned.
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