Day 13: John DiBiase's Top 20 Favorite Jars of Clay Songs
It's no secret that if I started the site 20 years ago and was 16 years old at the time, that... I'm not 16 anymore. But it also means that if I've been listening to Jars of Clay since their debut came out, then that would make me 15 years old when the groundbreaking Jars of Clay hit shelves in 1995. It's a very rare thing to listen to a band--let alone the same four guys for their entire run as a band--from the time you're in high school on through adulthood. And very few bands grow along with you like Jars of Clay did. It's also no secret that Jars of Clay is lying dormant right now--as the band hasn't officially broken up, but is taking a break from the road indefinitely--but that hasn't lessened the impact of their music, epecially to this fan. As JFH celebrates 20 years, I'll be offering up my Top 20 Jars of Clay songs, in no concrete order... -- John DiBiase, JFH Founder / Editor / Etc
1. "Work" (2006)
"Do you know... what I mean... when I say 'I don't want to be alone?'"
There are so many reasons why this is most likely my favorite Jars of Clay song of their entire catalog. The first time I'd heard it, it was during an interview with them at GMA Week in Nashville in 2006. I like to go into every interview completely prepared, and for some reason, the one interview I struggled to come up with questions for was with one of my favorite bands. Jars of Clay were between albums and I didn't know of them having a new record (odd, right?), so when I sat down to talk to them, and it was revealed during the answer to a generic first question that they'd just completed their new album, Good Monsters, I "threw out" all of my questions and just genuinely couldn't get enough details about the new album. Apparently, my enthusiasm was infectious enough that the guys whisked Amy and I away to a banquet room in the Nashville Convention center where they could play a CD of the very first song from their new album. That song was "Work." I was too excited to really take the whole song in, but the edgy sound was a sweet surprise from the usually tame pop rock / acoustic-based band. Months later, when we got our prerelease copy and I could really get to know the songs on Good Monsters, "Work" hit home tremendously. As a 20-something guy who was always coping with a wife who worked nightshift, "Work" was just too relatable. It was also by the end of that year that I was able to start doing JFH full-time, and I soon was adjusting to spending long days all by myself in my home office.
2. "Worlds Apart" (1995)
"Said and done I stand alone, Amongst the remains of life I should not own. It takes all I am to believe in the mercy that covers me. Did You really have to die for me?"
A close second--or maybe still tied for first--is "Worlds Apart." I first heard Jars of Clay when they opened up for PFR on tour in early 1995. Later that year, when I finally bought their self-titled label debut from a local Christian bookstore, I fell in love with the entire album. As a 15-year-old kid with a young heart as a believer, this emotional song just really resonated with me. And, honestly, it still does, as a guy who is all too aware of his own shortcomings.
3. "Something Beautiful" (2002)
"If You put your arms around me, could it change the way I feel?"
Thematically, "Something Beautiful" is one of those songs where it just sums up how I feel quite often.
4. "There Might Be A Light" (2009)
"There might be a light Somewhere in your mind. When you think of you and I, I wait for it to shine"
Unrequited love - whether romantic or just for a really close platonic friend - is always something I've struggled with. (I'm an INFJ personality, so I'm in of the more sensitive variety.) This song is a great illustration of the hope that someday the light will flick on and the other person you care for will just "get it."
5. "Fall Asleep" (2013)
This beautiful piano ballad is one of the most lovely Jars songs they've ever made. Also, having a wife who struggles with a sleeping disorder has been tough on us, especially when our schedules don't match up. My heart can relate to the sentiment of the chorus, "So stay up with me, don't fall asleep... because we only have this moment once in our lives."
6. "Love Song for a Savior" (1995)
"Someday we'll trust Him And learn how to see Him. Someday He'll call us And we will come running. We'll fall in His arms, The tears will fall down And we'll pray"
It's hard to not include a bunch of songs from their debut. This one is just such a great picture of a believer who wants to fall more in love with Jesus, but sometimes struggles with it. It's a wonderful prayer, and one that I haven't stopped relating to since I first heard it twenty-one years ago.
7. "Like A Child" (1995)
"Dear God, surround me as I speak, the bridges that I walk across are weak... Dear God, don't let me fall apart."
With how "Love Song" and "Like A Child" are back-to-back on their debut, it's just a great pair of songs about belief and doubt. And it's super catchy too!
8. "Liquid" (1995)
"Blood stained brow, He wasn't broken for nothing. Arms nailed down. He didn't die for nothing"
And the opening track from their debut is an excellent glimpse at the cross. I love the imagery here.
9. "Sinking" (1995)
"It's not my problem anymore, You see it never really was. So you can stop 'caring' as you call it and I'll be fine right here"
While this song is actually about someone with a drinking problem, for a 15-year-old kid, the line "See I can play a pretty convincing role, but I don't need you, I don't think I need you" was more fitting as a kid struggling to fit in than what it's originally about. And it's just a really great song -- from the beat to the harmonies.
10. "Boy On A String" (1995)
"They don't see beyond the lights or the painted background, they just like to see you fall."
The last song I'll highlight from their 1995 self-titled debut is "Boy On A String." Any kid trying to navigate the politics of love and dealing with their identity and peers will find plenty to relate to with a song about the concept of a being a marionette--a boy on a string...
11. "Skin & Bones" (2013)
"Someday, someday soon we’re going to open our eyes, Break out the windows and fly. I want to see it."
The amazing thing about Jars of Clay is they've grown up as lyricists and musicians, to the point where I never stopped being able to relate to their newest music. I doubt I could have related to a song like "Skin & Bones" at 15 like I could at 33, when it released. The vulnerability expressed in this song --and on much of Inland as an album-- is so engrossing. I love it.
12. "Needful Hands" (1998)
"You are my eyes when I cannot see. You are my voice, see, sing through me. You are my strength in weakness be. Holy"
Honestly, I often forget about this song these days, but this has to be one of the first worship songs I ever really connected with and it's still one of my all-time favorites. It's criminal that more people don't know about it. It released on a pretty impressive worship compilation (which features an absolutely beautiful song called "Brighten My Heart" by Sixpence None The Richer - please look it up if you haven't heard of it!) called Exodus in 1998. This song was never on an official Jars of Clay album, but it really deserved to be.
13. "Silence" (2002)
"I've got a question... 'Where are You?'"
The band's response to the horrors of 9/11 is another beautiful ballad that asks a really, really hard question that many believers fear to ask. "Where are You?" And when my heart hits the floor, "Silence" helps put some of my emotions into a prayer. "Deeper I wanna scream. I want you to hear me. I want you to find me. Cause I...I want to believe. But all I pray is wrong. And all I claim is gone." It's just a really, really powerful song.
14. "Dead Man (Carry Me)" (2006)
"Make me breathe, I want to be a new man, Tired of the old one, Out with the old plan"
It's a rocker, it's catchy, and it's a cry for God to kill our sinful nature and make us new.
15. "Inland" (2013)
"No maps you can rely on, faith and guts to guide you, wander til you find you, only raw desire, a match to give you fire, you have to trust your heart"
What is possibly the final song on--hopefully not--the band's final studio album of all-new material, "Inland" is a play on the idea of "no man is an island," and it confronts loneliness and isolation. It's got a bit of a subtle march to it, too, encouraging listeners to press on and keep moving forward.
16. "Amazing Grace" (2003)
"Amazing Grace I feel you coming up slowly now. Like the sun is risin', heat on my face"
This another really catchy, worshipful song I love. Who We Are Instead was kind of an unusual album for Jars of Clay, mixing a bit more of a southern feel with a distinctly pop flavor, and it offered up some really excellent songs (it was hard to not also put "Trouble Is" on this list).
17. "Show You Love" (2003)
"I'm gonna show you love in every language, I'm gonna speak with words that need no form"
Also from their album Who We Are Instead, this hit single offers some great imagery of living out love and walking out the talk.
18. "Tea And Sympathy" (1998)
"But it's not the way, That it has to be, Don't trade our love for tea and sympathy."
Another classic relationship song that I connected early on as a teenager trying to make sense of love, loss, heartache and forgiveness. After all, I was 18 when their much-anticipated album Much Afraid came out, and I had plenty of lady friend drama in my life already. :)
19. "Shelter" (2010)
"In the shelter of each other, We will live, We will live (Never walk alone)"
Jars of Clay's collaborative worship album "Shelter" is still fiercely (and tragically) underrated, and the title track is a gem that deserves more attention than it received. Aside from managing to work TobyMac, Audrey Assad AND Brandon Heath into one track along with the Jars guys successfully, it's a wonderful example of community and a nice reminder that if we stay together, we'll "never walk alone."
20. "Left Undone" (2013)
"I will try to make up for lost time, forsaking all I've done and left undone."
There's a poetic sense of regret here that resolves to move on past mistakes we've made and the things we failed to do or accomplish. It's melancholy and bittersweet, but certainly a song we can relate to as we get older. I think I love it more every time I hear it.
It's tough to nail down just 20 songs out of this band's long and song-filled history. Songs that almost made this list include (but are not limited to): "Safe to Land," "Oh My God," "Flood," "Trouble Is," "He," "Hibernation Day" (a wonderful Christmas original!), "I Need Thee Every Hour," "I Need You," "Forgive Me," "Don't Stop," "Heaven," "Frail," their contribution to the Chronicles of Narnia soundtrack "Waiting for the World To Fall," and the rare Good Monsters b-side "Love Me."