Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Soundtrack of My Life: Andrew Peterson

Of all of the artists on this list (the Soundtrack of My Life list I created some time back), I've probably been aware of Andrew Peterson the least amount of time. Shane & Steve Oakley are good friends of ours in Nashville who have an inside track on the music scene... since Shane & her sister recorded 3 albums under the name State of Mind back in the mid-late 90's. (Shari, my lovely wife, is actually in the "thank you's" on their final album, as she helped babysit Shane's daughter while they recorded vocals.)

Anyway, I remember Shane talking about going to see Andrew Peterson's Christmas concert every year... that he brought a veritable who's who of Nashville session players & singer/songwriters together to perform Christmas carols. Then, after a short break, they would come back & perform pieces of a Christmas musical/cantata/whatever that Andrew wrote over a number of years. Sadly, we never went to see these shows when they were so readily available.

Fast forward to 2004... when Shane burned Shari a CD of songs to as an encouragement gift. (Our transition here to Fresno was pretty rough - to go from a place where we were surrounded by close friends who were raising kids our age to a small town where we didn't have any connections except those provided by the good folks of our church.) The cut she included from Andrew Peterson was "Just As I Am" from his Love & Thunder album.

It's the fear that I've failed one too many times

It's the fear that His love is no better than mine

Something about the song chewed at my heart - enough so that Shari & I went out and bought the whole album - only to discover songs like "Let There Be Light" and "Family Man" and "After the Last Tear Falls". Here was a guy who combined literate writing with a Nashvillian singer/songwriter vibe musically to craft exquisite songs that wind themselves around your heart & your head.

We bought his first two albums as well -
Clear to Venus & Carried Along. (Well, actually, there was another album before that - Walk - but I've never actually seen a copy.) They were good but nothing stood out like Love & Thunder.

Then, in 2004, he finally finished the Christmas musical and released a CD of it -
Behold the Lamb of God. I'll talk about it more in a minute, because I didn't know this album existed until Christmas 2006.

Instead, my next experience with Andrew's music was the haunting album,
The Far Country. The lyrics are a series of musings on "longing for Heaven" (the Far Country of the title)... and songs like "The Havens Grey" and "Little Boy Heart Alive" sound like echoes from deep within my soul.

Come to the Father

Come to the deeper well

Drink of the water

And come to live a tale to tell

Pages are turning now

This is abundant life

The joy in the journey

Is enough to make grown man cry

It was another year or so before I found Behold the Lamb of God, which is absolutely the best Christmas album I own. It tells the story of Jesus' birth from beginning (the Passover) to end (his sacrificial death on the cross)... and the incredible music is complemented by thoughtful lyrics & wonderful performances by Andrew and some guests, including another favorite of mine, Derek Webb. It's become my favorite Christmas album - "So Long, Moses" is almost guaranteed to leave me in tears every time I hear the bridge:
"He'll bear no beauty or glory

Rejected, despised

A man of such sorrow

We'll cover our eyes

He'll take up our sickness

Carry our tears

For his people

He will be pierced

He'll be crushed for our evils

Our punishment feel

By his wounds

We will be healed."

I got Andrew's newest album for Christmas - Resurrection Letters, Vol. 2... then had the privilege of hosting him for an album release concert at my church last month. It was delightful to hear him share about the origin of the different songs - Braeden fell in love with "Rocket" and I found myself floored by the personal nature of "The Good Confession (I Believe)."

You need to know as well that he's written songs for Veggietales (the ballad from the Wizard of Ha's is from his album for kids entitled Slugs, Bugs & Lullabies... and the song, "You Can Always Come Home" will make you weep like a baby if you're a parent and/or take the story of the Prodigal Son seriously) as well as started authoring a series of fantasy novels, beginning with On The Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.

When I hear Andrew's music, I hear echoes of the Truth... he weaves together the stuff of my life (a longing for adventure, a love for the writings of C.S. Lewis, delight in being a husband & a father, desire to follow Jesus) and his music carries me further up & further in. Give it a listen.

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