I started listening to Andrew Peterson in college right around the same time Bebo Norman hit mainstream CCM (Contemporary Christian Music). Of course, if you know much about dorm life, much of it is spent playing video games, watching sports or movies, and if you play guitar, jamming with a few other guitarists in someone’s room for hours at a time. Well, at least that’s what dorm life was life for me.
Peterson is a very talented acoustic gutarist and has a unique style characterized by a deep-bodied sound, full of resonance and preciseness. Originally, I was drawn to his genre and artistic abilities (on the gutar and lyrical content). But now, as I have seen over the years, the Lord providentially brought Peterson’s music into my life in order to continue to groom my spiritual life in the direction of the sojourner mentality but also to take me into a place of deep reverance and meditation where his music served to bring me always back to the Scriptures, sound theology, and without a doubt, worship of the Triune God. In light of my recent posts on the Sojourner mentality and Hebrews 11:13-16, I thought that it might prove beneficial to show you a musicial link to what exactly I am trying to demonstrate.
I remember hearing Peterson say in an interview concerning the making of this album that the whole thing was conceived during a very hard time of his life. This is evident from the tone and attitude of several of the tracks such as “Pillar of Fire” and “Silence of God”. However, despite the various unknown hardships and trials he was facing, one thing is certain from the first listening of this album is that the promises of God and his Sovereignty are what sustained Peterson during this period of his life. This point is the main reasoning behind the sojouner mentality and is why I see this album so relevant to this topic. Above all other issues in life, the promises of God are what sustain and empowers the faith in God’s people even when situations seem bleak and uncertain. It is the faith in “Future Grace” which is what John Piper calls it that enables God’s children to please him, to overcome sin, and in doing so, not waste our lives. Instead, it places us in that great cloud of witnesses of whom the world was not worthy (Heb 11:38, 12:1).
Now I will go song by song and give just a brief commentary on each one in terms of content and style.
1. Canan Bound ~ The CD is worth having just for this one song. It is a narrative retelling of the call of Abram. It is piano-based and is slow, melodic, and very meditative. This song defines the attitude of the whole album. A short reprise ends the album as the final song fades out.
2. Let There Be Light ~ This is the most bluegrass type song on the album. There are direct references to some of Nashville’s greats such as Chet Atkins and Bill Monroe. This is a song about being made in the image of God and having creative ability.
3. Serve Hymn ~ There is a little play on words in the title of this song. The chorus sings, “O Serve Him.” This has a little bit of a touch of an old hymn but of course with a contemporary edge. The lyrics revolve around the idea of our standing before God before salvation and afterwards. Dwelling upon these truths, Peteson calls us to the inevitable conclusion, namely servanthood.
4. Holy Is The Lord ~ This is a little tag placed on the tail end of “Serve Hymn”. It took later development on the 3rd installment of the “City on a Hill” series which is probably the best song on that album. In the same fashion as “Canan Bound”, Peterson tells the story of God requiring of Abraham to sacrifice Issac in narrartive fashion. It’s a very powerful song.
5. Pillar of Fire ~ Once again, Peterson demonstrates his poetic abilities mixed with fine story-telling full of theological substance. Here, he recounts the wilderness journey and God’s faithfulness in leading the people. Then, he does a little theological interpretation and crosses this imagery over to Christ. This as well is a very folky song.
6. Just As I Am ~ No, this is not a new version of the old hymn. This is just a simple song reaffirming the love of the Father in Christ for his people through the work of the cross and regeneration. This song features Cliff Young, the main vocalist for Caedmon’s Call.
7. Family Man ~ This song got a lot of radio play when the album initially came out. For those of you with children, this song will hit home. Here’s one line, “I am a family man, I traded in my mustang for a mini-van,”. It is a very inspiring and encouraging song whether you are a parent or not. For those of you familiar with Dave Matthews Band, this song has some guitar riffs similar to “The Christmas Song”.
8. Tools ~ This is a song that Peterson wrote for his Grandfather on the day that he died. This song is more so of a tribute and helps stir up the reverence, respect, and appreciation that Grandparents deserve. If your grandparents like mine were a part of what is called the “greatest generation”, then you will relate to this song.
9. High Noon ~ Here is powerful retelling of the resurrection. My favorite artists are those who can tell stories. This is an example of why Peterson is my favorite artist. His story-telling abilities are hard to beat. This is more of an upbeat song but still has a lot of the bluegrass atmoshphere about it.
10. The Silence Of God ~ This is primarily an acoustic guitar song with very little else going on musically. If you’ve ever felt like God was far from you or that he was refraining from speaking to you, this song will really minister to you in a powerful way. It is very quiet and meditative and will help you be still and know that he is God. Michael Card recently covered this song on his new album, “The Hidden Face of God” which focuses on lament as worship.
11. After The Last Tear Falls ~ This is a song of lists and a little-bit piano driven. It departs from the folk emphasis of the other songs a little. However, this song sums up the main theme of the rest of the CD as he describes various situations that are endured living under the promise of God and the knowledge of his love for us. This is a song about the faithfulness of God.
Each song whether I mentioned it or not contains elements related to trusting in the promises of God and the character of God. Peterson conveys in his very unique and carefully articulated style that those two truths are the greatest comforts in the midst of any trial or dry place in the your life. This album will cause you to dig deeper in the Word and to strengthen your faith for the long days ahead. It will help you die in faith!
For those of you who live in Fort Worth, TX reading this, as of right now, I know that there is a copy at the Half Price Bookstore located at Ridgmar Mall in the christian music section. It is still in the plastic wrapping and is pretty much brand new. I think the price on it is like $5.98, but I might be mistaken.