The album begins powerfully with "Small Rebellions," a congregational-sized song structured as a prayer. Without taking the church to task, it gently cajoles that people matter. The small rebellion, according to Haseltine, is to take an extremely counter-cultural action, to commit senseless acts of kindness to others even though the cultural currents suggest we should attend to our own individual needs.

"It seems like there's an obvious push towards isolation and a shift away from interpersonal," Haseltine explained. "We think we could be living our lives differently."

But as he sees it, this is not just a phenomenon that plays out at the keyboard of our devices. Sometimes isolation is not just a matter of forgetting to look someone in the face, but also failing to listen to their stories and points of view.  In the track "Eyes Wide Open," the band and artists Mac Powell of Third Day, Derek Webb, and Burlap to Cashmere collaborate to create a conversational model where they work to genuinely listen to one another.

Haseltine found this song particularly interesting to work on.  "In many issues of the day, people are yelling at each other, but no one's listening to each other. Sometimes it's a fear of other faiths. Sometimes maybe (wanting to be) right is causing us not to love people more," he said.

Like many of the songs on the album, "Eyes Wide Open" becomes something of a sung corporate prayer, which is precisely what Jars of Clay hopes the entire album will become. They imagined it as a collection of songs people could sing together in church, where most often people are singing side-by-side but are reading from the screen or the hymnal.

It's a tall order in a Christian music scene that has seen a hard dividing line emerge between worship and pop during the past 10 years. According to Haseltine, many people have come to view Christian music as something strictly for the church. He believes this has driven away many of the artists who might otherwise bring strong prophetic messages through their craft. Reviewers outside the church often dismiss an artist simply because of the category they are placed in. But the Jars vocalists hopes this is about to change. He is convinced that all of the new ways musicians have to get their work out will encourage them to be creative.

"The music is not just for the Christian community. We care deeply about the music we make. This is life as we see it. We want to continue to blur the lines. We don't want to live with the categories," he said.

Jars of Clay will take this message public this fall as they kick off their new tour with GMA Dove award-winning artist Brandon Heath. The band plans to introduce a few songs from the new album, but Haseltine says they plan to focus on their older music, including the songs on their first release. The band is also planning a multi-artist tour feature the music from The Shelter for Spring 2011.



For more information about Jars of Clay, their newest ablum Jars of Clay Presents The Shelter or upcoming tour dates, please visit www.jarsofclay.com.