Last February found veteran quartet Jars of Clay releasing their first installment in their series Live At Gray Matters, a series of live EPs showcasing some of best material the band has to offer. Vol. 1 primarily displayed select cuts from the band's most recent studio effort at the time, The Long Fall Back To Earth, and the result was charming and interesting to most fans of the band in their current direction. Vol. 2: The Rewind Edition, however, continues everything that made the first installment great while focusing on material from Jars' legendary self-titled debut.
The same format used for Vol. 1 was instated for Vol. 2: five live tracks from the quartet plus a long-form music video capturing the live performance are included in the final product. Compared to the songs presented in the last EP, these definitely have a stripped down approach. Electric guitars have been replaced with the dual acoustics, and the overall mood feels a lot less produced than last time around. In capturing the songs from Jars of Clay, while maintaining the rootsy feel of the 1995 album, they feel surprisingly updated and still feel fresh. The guest drummer and bassist Jake Goss and Gabe Ruschival both make a return here, but we are also graced with the presence of a live cellist and violinist, courtesy of the Henry Brothers. They nail their parts so well, especially the iconic string solo featured in "Flood," that it's plausible they could have been the original performers on the record.
The song selection from Jars of Clay is masterful as well. With the opener "Liquid"'s wails starting things off, the EP has a great start, and it only gets better from there. "Boy On a String" and "Like A Child" are also fine selections are the more obscure tracks on the project, but "Flood" and "Love Song For a Savior" closes things out in familiar fashion. "Flood" and "Love Song For a Savior" are executed in the same manner as the 2008 updates, and it was a wise choice, since they make the live performance flow much better as a whole. Overall, the modern differences are apparent, but respect the original album exactly how they should. The only song that feels noticeably absent is "Worlds Apart;" as arguably one of the best songs in the band's career from arguably their best album, and though it's very possible it is being saved for a later installment, it may be bordering on criminal not to see it covered here.
For the video, the consistency is found in the same studio as the last effort, and even the band members don't look like they've changed outfits (Stephen Mason's t-shirt aside). As a result, this is largely a continuation of the last performance and the transition between installments is near seamless. In between the songs, old video clips from the band's first touring days are played, and though they are never more than a minute each, they add so much to the final product in capturing how far along the band has come in their tenure. Showing the band both at fifteen months old and over fifteen years old, the quartet is displayed as a timeless band that can still bring their finest to the table.
As a retrospective project for the band, Vol. 2 of Live At Gray Matters is a home run at the very least. Taking everything from Vol. 1 and making it better, as well as covering their most classic of songs, this is an extremely well-produced release that only makes one more excited for the next effort. From the newest to the oldest of fans of Jars of Clay, anyone can enjoy and reflect upon The Rewind Edition; it's a must-have for Jars enthusiasts alike, and a more than worthy second outing in the series.
- Review date: 12/11/10, written by Roger Gelwicks of Jesusfreakhideout.com