Jars of Clay's Christmas EP, Drummer Boy, was originally released on Essential Records in 1995 (a second version was released in 1997 on Silvertone Records). This follow-up to Jars' self-titled album includes new versions of well-known carols and Jars tunes, uniquely arranged and gracefully performed. It takes its audience on a flashback to the early sound of Jars of Clay, while celebrating the joyous birth of Jesus.
A haunting cascade of drums and percussion quietly opens the CD and crescendos to the beginning line of "The Little Drummer Boy." The familiar voice of lead singer, Dan Haseltine, pulls off the repetitive melody flawlessly, with the help of Steve Mason (guitar, bgv), Charlie Lowell (keys), Matt Odmark (guitar), and Scott Savage (drums). Second, the classic Christmas song, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," is transformed into a hymn of joyful noise complete with beautiful harmonies and strings. The guitar part is especially impressive, as it pulls the whole track together in perfect Jars style. An acoustic version of the song "He" from Jars' self-titled album follows. Although it does not carry out the Christmas theme, "He" is included on the CD because it is a touching song that speaks out against child abuse and offers incredible hope to the hurting. Since the Jars boys feel strongly about the painful effects of child abuse, a portion of the proceeds from the Drummer Boy EP are given to the Child Abuse Prevention Center of Middle Tennessee. This version of "He" is generally considered to be better than the original because it is not over-produced, and it is delivered with an enormous amount of emotion. The final track is a remix of "The Little Drummer Boy," perhaps inappropriately titled the "Grinch Mix." It is not as enjoyable as the first track, but has some added bonuses that make it worth listening to. Stephen Mason sings lead on the second verse of this upbeat number, a very rare occurrence. Then, the CD drifts out as quietly as it opens, leaving the listener wanting more. Perhaps there is a sliver of hope for fans that the Jars boys will one day record a full length Christmas album, but until then, count on the Drummer Boy EP for a dose of delightful holiday spirit.