In 1995, Jars of Clay released their self-titled album, a landmark Christian rock record that was one of the first to achieve mainstream success, in part because its themes were couched in a lyrical style that left many secular fans unaware of the band's religious roots. On the other hand, 2005's Redemption Songs, which stands as one of the group's most artistically ambitious efforts, is also its most overtly Christian.
Throughout the album, the Nashville-based ensemble uses old-fashioned hymns as a starting point, yet often alters them until they're virtually unrecognizable. Many of the melodies are completely rewritten, and the arrangements are crafted for maximum pop appeal. Fittingly, Jars of Clay continue to explore the use of traditional instruments that they began on 2003's Who We Are Instead -- mandolins, acoustic guitar, pedal steel, and violin make even more frequent appearances. In addition, lead vocalist Dan Haseltine allows a natural country twang to creep into his voice, particularly on "I Need Thee Every Hour" and the stark, stripped-down "Hiding Place," and the acclaimed gospel vocal group the Blind Boys of Alabama appear on two tracks. An important album for the genre, Redemption Songs bridges the old and the new like few records in Christian music before it.