Now somewhere in 1996, I started hearing songs from a band called Jars of Clay. I remember listening to their debut album at the listening station at our Christian Book Store and thinking “now this is pretty good”. I didn’t end up buying their debut though at the time.
In 1997, our family bought a CD player. It was a big day. I was excited to start buying CDs instead of cassettes. They looked cooler, sounded better, didn’t need to be rewound at the end and the artwork was bigger. I decided that the first CD I would buy would be the new Jars of Clay record Much Afraid. I expected it to be similar to that song “Flood” that I owned on some free mix cassette I’d gotten. I remember paging through the liner notes and thinking they looked artsy and cool; solid colored pages with a different color for each song and a few band pictures where they were playing instruments. Now, most music I listened to before this didn’t involve much instrument-playing by the band members themselves, so this was pretty cool. They were a real “band”.
The songs on this album were quite different from their previous one. More rock than folk. In fact, this album could be described as “Brit-pop” by a seasoned music listener, which I was not at the time. All I knew was that this album was a game-changer for me. Jars of Clay was now my favorite band.
Around this time, I learned that JoC was playing a concert at the U of M in Minneapolis. I decided I wanted to go and tried to organize a group of people to go along. Only three other people were interested, but my dad dutifully drove the four of us to the show. It was Halloween night and the band came out wearing masks, singing the first song with them on. They opened with “Weighed Down” which includes the line “a bubblemaker’s dream”. When they sang that line, bubble machines started shooting out bubbles over the stage and into the audience. I’d never seen a concert like this one before and it solidified my love of this band.
This was also around the time that I started really trying to learn to play guitar and sing. I spent many hours struggling through online tabs of the songs from this album. It made the album that much more personal to me because I was using the songs to learn a skill and I hammered on them (no pun intended) for months and months. I don’t listen to this album that much anymore, but when I do I find that I still know almost all the lyrics.
I’m sure this is a CD that will never leave my collection. For one thing, it was the first CD I ever bought. Secondly, it’s just a really good album.