Number 21 on my countdown of Top 40 Albums is Who We Are Instead by Jars of Clay.
Music is a fascinating art form because of its connection to personal memories. I don’t believe any other art form evokes such strong visions of one’s past. A song can be associated with one particular memory, or even a general time of life for the listener. A piece of music can remind the listener of a particular friend or family member. A specific lyric can remind you of something said to you or something you once said. The astonishing thing about all these connections is they may or may not be apparent. For example, when I listen to the song “Be Lifted or Hope Rising” by David Crowder* Band I always think of my friend Chris who used to play bass in our band, Blue Turnip. One night, he came over for rehearsal and afterward we began talking about what was then the most recent David Crowder* Band release. As we were helping Chris take his stuff out to his car, we talked about our mutual affinity for “Be Lifted or Hope Rising” and began singing the guitar riff that underlays the chorus. Our driveway was directly under the master bedroom windows and my Mom always slept with the windows open. I remember my Dad shushed me from singing the riff, so I wouldn’t wake up my Mom. This is a specific memory directly related to my personal experience with a particular song.
However, sometimes what our minds associate with a song is not especially apparent. Transitioning back into talking about Jars of Clay, their version of the hymn “Thou Lovely Source of True Delight” on the stellar worship album Redemption Songs always reminds me of my Dad. I am not quite sure why. This isn’t a song my Dad especially loves and I don’t recall any time we even listened to this song while in the same room. Nevertheless, every time I hear this song, I think of my Dad. Music has the interesting ability to do this to us–to send us back to a vivid memory or emotional state. It is just one of a myriad of reasons why music is the definitive art form.
Getting back to Who We Are Instead, I chose to write this introduction about music and memory because I have three very strong memory associations with songs on this album. Before I delve into these memories, I believe that is where the strength of this record–and, indeed, Jars of Clay in general–lies. Because of the memories I associate with this album, Who We Are Instead became a part of my life as much as the memories it inspires me to relive. Interestingly, these three memories involve the first four tracks of this album, and actually occur in a corresponding order. Hopefully, various memory associations with tracks on this albums is not like, my life clock.
Summer 2004 in Myrtle Beach, SC
My family used to go to Myrtle Beach resort about once a year for our vacation. As a kid, Myrtle Beach resort was pretty much unbeatable as it had, I believe, seven swimming pools ranging from an enormous pool with a diving well that was right on the ocean to an intimate sort of Cingular-Wireless logo shaped pool that the few buildings in our area shared. One pool that particularly amazed myself and my siblings was an indoor/outdoor pool that also had a hot tub by the indoor section. Pre-Seventh grade me had received Who We Are Instead as a Christmas gift about six months prior to this trip. For whatever reason, the two opening tracks to this record were wildly stuck in my head for this entire trip. I have vivid memories of sitting in the hot tub in the indoor section of the indoor/outdoor pool, softly singing “Sunny Days” and “Amazing Grace” over and over again until hearing a stranger talk to my parents about how cool it was that I was singing. Of course, once I overheard this conversation, I promptly stopped singing. Also, “Amazing Grace” is an original song and not the famous hymn if you have never heard it before. Also, the organ solo in “Amazing Grace” is one of my favorite organ solos ever. It is not flashy or even technically difficult, but it fits so, so well.
Summer 2006 in Boone, NC
I grew up in Boone, NC in Watauga County. In Watauga, every year there was a show called “Shooting Stars” which was basically an overblown talent show for public school kids from elementary through high school. “Shooting Stars” was actually ridiculously well attended as it would fill up the largest venue in Boone, Farthing Auditorium (now renovated and called Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts). Via “Shooting Stars” and other events that glorified talented humans under the age of 18, there is actually a pretty strong prodigy culture in Boone where people would flock to see talented kids perform. I ended up in this culture as a kid as did a girl named Jessica. Jessica’s parents provided the funds for Jessica to record an album of covers, and Jessica asked me to sing on a few tracks. One of the tracks was the Jars of Clay version of “Lonely People” made famous by the band America. I honestly have a pretty shaky memory of what our recorded track ended up sounding like, and I actually no longer have a copy of the CD. However, I remember when we came in to record the track, the guitarist who had recorded the accompanying track had ramped up the BPMs to transform “Lonely People” into a reeling Blue Grass song. It was so fast, that we actually could not record it that day and had to come back after the guitarist re-did the accompanying track. The guitarist was pretty peeved about having to re-do it and repeatedly whined that he was, “…just trying to do it the way Jars of Clay did it.” As you will hear from the video below, while the song does have some Blue Grass influence, it is actually slower than the original America recording. This story has provided me and my Dad with countless laughs and vocal parodies of an absurdly fast “Lonely People.”
August 16, 2013 at Amos’ South End in Charlotte, NC
As I mentioned in my previous post, Jars of Clay is my wife, Catey’s, favorite band. We had the opportunity to meet Catey’s parents in Charlotte to see Jars of Clay touring their new album Inland. We had VIP tickets which meant we got to meet the band, get some signatures, and get a few pictures with them before the show. They were, and I am sure still are, incredibly nice fellows, and I finally got to settle an argument of what the opening lyrics to their song “Unforgetful You” are (FYI every person involved in the argument was wrong). Catey, being the incredible person that she is, had hand-made and hand-written each band member a personal card. One of the cards mentioned how important their song “Only Alive” was to us as a couple. Jars of Clay ended up performing “Only Alive” as an impromptu addition to their encore because of the cards Catey had made. I had seen Jars of Clay three times and all three times times they did not play a single song off of Who We Are Instead, until Catey wrote those cards and I got to hear “Only Alive” in that encore. Just one of the countless ways in which she has made my life better. You can hear “Only Alive” and a couple other love songs in my Valentines Day Post from this year.
I leave you with one more song from the album. Track eleven featuring Ashley Cleveland entitled “Jealous Kind”
There you have it! Number 21 on my countdown of Top 40 albums! If you are interested in other installments on the countdown up to this point, here are the links!
25. Queen by Queen
We have officially reached the halfway point of the countdown! I hope you have enjoyed it so far! In the top 20 you can look forward to a couple artists we have heard from so far, and many artists we have not yet heard from. It is about to get real exciting! Sorry this post is about five days late (as usual), but you can count on tuning in later this week for a Fourth of July post! I am shooting for Wednesday! Thanks for reading, and have an excellent few days!