Andrew Peterson: Love and Thunder

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I am outside on my front porch. The yellowed leaves are methodically falling from the black walnut in the yard, my breath is chalky visible in the recent cold snap, and lately I have been exploring the unpleasant nuances of the dark night of a soul – my own, to be exact. It is a strange passion we live out on this over-glorified orb of rock hurtling through space at some rate that I’m sure would astound me were I to know what it was. It is an odd series of days, I am realizing, when you question your own faith more than you question your own doubt. And, indeed, it is these nagging questions which have prompted me to share my thoughts on Andrew Peterson’s 2003 album, Love and Thunder.

1280x1280I credit Andrew for giving me a chance at a second career as a singer-songwriter in the floppy music business. In 1996 I toured with Caedmon’s Call while in my former duet, Ridgely. That was chance #1. I ambled off to pursue solo stuff in 1999 and made a less-than-stellar EP, More than Watchmen, that same year. It received no acclaim. For good reason. I made a follow-up full-length album, Land of the Living in 2001 and was having a terrible time making any headway. Late that year, I decided to commit the month of December to praying, as much silence as I could muster, and waiting; God would have to provide the shows and some dose of encouragement. If not, I’d take the career hint and move on. Probably not an exact, nor Biblical, depiction of the scene, but I trust you get the idea. I was at my parents’ house in Baton Rouge for the holidays and received a random phone call from Andrew one night. He had called to tell me he was enjoying LOTL and invited me to tour with him that spring as his opener. I was floored by the offer and quite thrilled. And certainly encouraged. There were many miles, many laughs and many late night Taco Bell meals on that tour with Andy, my wife, Ben Shive and Laura Story. In seeing Andy play every night there were also many lessons learned on how good performances don’t necessarily mean you have to be anyone other than yourself. It was a gilded prize for me and a lesson I have taken to heart and stage ever since.

So, why did Eric title this post, “Andrew Peterson: Love and Thunder”, when all he’s done so far is talk about himself? Because I want you to know, dear reader, why I like this album so much: I am richer for having been physically present when some of these songs were born “from the void of the wire and the wood”. I am humbled – sometimes a good thing, eh? – by the sheer grace and honesty of his words. I resonate with the album’s starkness and revel in its hope. I remember Andrew playing “Family Man” for us, his band, in a Wichita hotel room. I remember hearing “Silence of God” for the first time during a soundcheck. Andrew might remember things otherwise, but I have vividly fond memories from the tour all of which aided me in thinking and seeing better.

L&T is an album that is delicate in its haunting, beautiful in its sorrow, rich in questions, fertile in its proclamation of faith and doubt, and painstakingly glorious in its production. It is an album of songs that, no doubt, came from a dark night of Andrew’s own soul. And that, I suppose, is why I am drawn to write about it now. Misery enjoys company. No man or woman escapes this hurtling orb without suffering at the gates of pain, whether it is intense or minute, emotional or physical, faced head-on or avoided altogether. It is the condition of things as they are, but not as they one day shall be. I am grateful for the wisdom and insight of Andrew Peterson, as a friend, a songwriter and as a person who has possibly passed through the depths of earth (or hell) and returned a scarred, bruised and battered man, but all the more holy in his humanity.

*Of course, this very splendid album is available for purchase here in the Rabbit Room.*

Eric Peters, affectionately called “Pappy” by those who love him, is the grand old curmudgeon of the Rabbit Room. But his small stature and often quiet presence belie a giant talent. He’s a songwriter of the first order, and a catalogue of great records bears witness to it. His last album, Birds of Relocation, blew minds and found its way onto “year’s best” lists all over the country. When he’s not painting, trolling bookstores, or dabbling in photography, he’s touring the country in support of his latest record, Far Side of the Sea.


14 Comments

  1. Curt McLey

    @curtmcley

    Thanks for that post, Sir Peters. It brought back some memories of my own from the other side of the curtain related to both of those songs.

    I have vivid memories of when I learned of both songs. I first heard “Family Man” at Northside Christian Church in Kansas City on March 8, 2002. My son and I drove down to K.C. from Omaha. It may have been my first Andrew Peterson show. And Mr. Eric Peters was there too. We had front row seats.

    I remember Andrew introducing “Family Man,” as a new song. He said he finished it in a hotel room in Wichita a day or two before. It’s not like there’s some contest, like fans who hear songs first get a gold star or something, but I can’t deny that being one of the first to hear this one isn’t just cooler than cool.

    AP posted the lyrics to “Silence of God” on his website shortly after he finished it. I doubt the thread still exists because it was from an old iteration of his website, but the response from Andylanders was intense. Not that it took a musicologist to recognize the insane beauty and truth in that song, but I remember that as posters we just went nuts. Some things you just know. And even without music, with “Silence of God” we all knew.

    I wonder if we could get any other AP Andylanders to chime in on this. It’s one of my favorite on-line memories.

    It is so very hard for a guy like me that stuggles to find the right words to begin to express what this CD has meant to me through the years. Too few words and it seems flip. Too many words and I sound like some verbose sycophant who is paid by the word.

    Suffice it to say that this CD is a work of art, in the best sense of the word. It’s personal, yet universal. Beautiful, despite–or perhaps because of– its candor. And now, it’s like an old friend.

    On a trivial note, I’m not recommending the movie, but if you wish to see a scene that is totally reminiscent of the cover on Love & Thunder, rent My Own Private Idaho (it carries an “R” rating for good reason) and fast forward to the scenes that were filmed in the country. When you get to the scene of the field and the sky that looks like the cover, pause it. It’s beauty is stunning, just like the cover of the CD and just like the songs contained inside.

  2. Tom Bubb

    Thanks for your personal insights Eric and Curt! I’ve always enjoyed this album but when I first discovered the rabbit room I dug it out again and I’m so happy I did! This is a truly beautiful album and the deceptively sparse production gives each song extra weight and power. I love it that much more now because I feel like I found it again when I needed it most.

    Thank you Andrew for making this gorgeous record and thank you Eric and Curt for sharing!

  3. Mark

    You know, I think that what separates this album from many other great albums out there is the depth of honesty. For me, listening to this album reminds me of the reverence I need to have for God. In a world of downsizing God to just a “friend”, L & T reminds me that God is also a mysterious, holy God. It’s this holiness that leaves me silent. My pastor one time said that when the Bible refers to God as “holy, holy, holy”, it is the equivalent in english of saying “good, better, best”. It is the superlative.

    And that is what a truly powerful album does. It doesn’t leave me with a certain comfort, and that’s okay. It is like a tiny window into the giant world of God.

    thanks for sharing

  4. David Johnson

    Mr. Peters,

    Thanks for drawing attention to what I believe is AP’s best album to date. I was introduced to Love and Thunder by my “Eschatology” professor in seminary and it has continually been a gracious source of hope for me and my family. In April of this year, my father-in-law lost his battle with cancer, two weeks before our third child was born. Our prayer was that “Opa” would at least get to meet our first son. However, God had other plans. The timing of his death and Silas’ birth prevented us from travelling home for the funeral. The day of her father’s death, my wife went into false labor and her doctor forbid any travel. Needless to say, it was a very difficult time for our family, However, God mercifully ministered to us specifically through the last three tracks of Love and Thunder. The cross-centeredness of “High Noon” pointed us to the cross and tomb, the reason for our hope. The honesty of “The Silence of God” allowed us to genuinely grieve without the hopeless cliches that often come from the mouths of well-meaning Christians. Finally, “After the Last Tear Falls” directed our gaze to that eternal city for which Abraham and Sarah longed (Canaan Bound), where there will be no more tears or crying or pain. We cannot express how grateful we are for the depth and honesty and hope contained in AP’s music and especially in Love and Thunder. Our heartfelt thanks.

  5. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    I first heard this record when David Breen, Andrew’s booking agent, gave me a copy. I left Nashville headed for Florida and popped in the disc. I was half-way into a season of writing for my next record and had really hunkered down to write what I hoped would be some smart, hooky, little pop songs that would score me some radio play. I was a folkie storyteller at heart, but was enjoying the challenge of writing pop songs, and felt like I was gaining some ground, was actually pretty pleased with some simple anthemic choruses I had dreamed up.

    Then I heard Love and Thunder and knew that I had to start all over. That I wasn’t even on the map. My wife and I were both weeping by the end of the first verse, and I pretty much wept through the whole album. And then we played it again. And I knew that in my own musical pursuits of writing a hit pop song, that I needed to dig deeper. These were songs that mattered and reminded me of what music can do, and why I pursued music in the first place.

  6. Joy Carren

    Eric, I had never heard of Andrew. In chapel at Gordon Conwell in MA some musicians played After the Last Tear Falls. I just ’bout fell over. Stopped by a friend’s office afterward to tell her about it – she was PLAYING L&T – I said Gimme That – & took it that Sunday into the Maine prison where I minister. I played Last Tear for the men and handed out the words. They got pin-drop silent. Then some of them got to rubbing their eyes. Then they asked me to play it again. The same thing happened at the women’s service.

  7. Joy Carren

    Eric, AND THEN the next month I was on AP’s website – saw he was coming to !?! Maine!?! for a Compassion Intl concert … nearby … on a Sat night … they’d have to stay over… what were they doing on Sun morning…???? Andrew, Ben and Andy graciously came into the prison and played both services. It was a taste of heaven.

  8. Jacob Souva

    I’ve loved that album for a long time. It’s perfect for a long drive with the wife, when you don’t need to say anything, just enjoying the music together.

    I remember the weight of “After The Last Tear Falls” and the line about divorce. My parents had told me they were going their separate ways and I, a grown son, felt like I should be strong. But that line ripped through me.

    Tremendous CD. (and for the record, Eric’s last one has some moments like that for me too…)

  9. Duran Smith

    “Love and Thunder” has become an anthem for me. During the time that it was released, I was heavily struggling with direction for my life. “Love and Thunder” helped me to realize God’s path for me, that He has an extraordinary plan to use me for His glory. So many of God’s promises resonate thunderously from the songs. “With love He means to save us all, and Love has chosen you and me.” “You’ve been there every step along that road. . . . You blazed the trail that leads me home.” I can feel the joy of the journey when I sing along. Mr. Peterson, your music moves me closer to God, and it is an understatement of gratitude to thank you. May God prosper your art and bless you exceedingly.

    Duran

  10. John Michalak

    I always remember how we focus on the resurrected image of Christ as our model and goal in life–that’s the end focus of where we’re headed. But, most of the time, especiallty during times of deep doubt, we perhaps focus too much on the future glory while forgetting that in his resurrected body, Christ still bears the scars of his suffering. Certainly the best glory you and I could achieve would be no different. That’s one of the big things I take away from Love & Thunder. Sort of like the quote from the movie, Shadowlands, “The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.”

  11. Chris R

    It is because of guys like Osenga and Eric Peters that I first heard Love and Thunder. Maybe it was God speaking to me in a little way, but this album kept popping up on recommended lists from artists that I liked and so, despite never hearing Andrew Peterson before, I bought it. And listened again and again. One night I was up late talking with a friend and describing the lyrics of “The Silence of God” and “High Noon” and got so excited I asked her for her address, got online right then and there and bought the album and had it sent to her. I have since bought it two other times for friends.

    I just listened to this CD today before noticing this post and was struck again by the songwriting. I am attempting to make my own feeble attempts at writing and figured where to best go than one of the albums that has such great writing. I can’t tell you how many times the little kid inside of me has risen up and cheered at the power of God triumphing at high noon, with a “gun [that is] the grace of the god of the sky.” I remember when I repainted a room in my house I closed all the doors and sang this song at the top of my lungs with the stereo turned up all the way (I had the reopen the doors though when the paint fumes started to cause a different religious experience). Or the times that I was thoroughly beat down and heard lyrics like “it’s the fear that i’ll fall one too many times, it’s the fear that his love is no better than mine” or “and when the questions dissolve into the silence of God, the aching may remain but the breaking does not” that brought me back to the truth of the Word. Sometimes song speaks deeper than anything else.

    So thanks EP for the review and thanks AP for writing this record.

  12. Mike Brown

    I remember anticipating the release date and being there to buy the album on the day it came out. My wife had some shopping to do at the mall so I had to wait several hours to listen. I stuck it in on the way home and suddenly realized that God had written me a series of notes and told AP to sing them to me. The tears flowed down this 45 year old football coach’s face as God draped himself around me to deliver the notes. Yes it was the Silence of God and After the Last Tear Drop Falls and Just as I Am that left me broken like the shards created by this man we call Jesus. I had the opportunity to meet Andy in Greenville SC after a Christmas show. I told him that his music had “messed me up.” I hope he continues to listen to the Lord and writing music that chisels away at this heart of stone to reveal the one of flesh.

    BTW Eric I first heard you last year at a Christmas show, also near Greenville. Thanks for being a square peg.

    Mike

  13. MaryGrace G

    If you have never had a song hit you over the head like an anvil then maybe you’re not listening to the right kind of music.
    Last night was an anvil night. I was driving out to a friend’s house and listening to AP L&T when the words pouring through my speakers hit me. I backed up the track and turned up the volume allowing the words to pour over me and wait for that moment that had echoed in my soul.
    Many times in my life I have marveled at the “Silence of God.” Our God promises to be right next to us and yet why do I look around to find my self alone, or worse yet lonely. He promised comfort and yet I am not comforted. He promises to provide and Yet I want. He promised to heal and yet I am still in pain. To count the times that I have cried out to him would be like counting grains of sand. I look around and see his hand in mighty and powerful ways in everyone’s life but my own… and the answer to my cries is silence. A silence that is deafening, as I can hear little else but the lack of response. Why is it that it is so silent so often?
    And then there are those glorious times, the ones that seem to come when I am at the end of my rapidly fraying rope, when I hear his voice. When it echoes so loudly through my being that I can not miss it.
    The Longer I walk with the Lord the more I come to understand that his silence is not what my desperation takes it for. He has not abandoned me. He is not off helping someone and will get back to me when he has a chance to check his messages. He is Comfort. He is Provision. He is Healing. He is Constant. I need only look to see the works of his hands. I need only read His word to witness a God that is working, that is interceding, that is participating. I may not always hear his voice but that doesn’t mean he isn’t listening, acting, interceding, and in His silence sometimes he is even answering, not in the way I might have envisioned but in the way that is for my greatest benefit and that will ultimately allow me to interact with His Kingdom, here on earth, so others may hear His voice.
    Thanks Andrew… it is not often that I find music that resonates so deeply with where I am and who I want to become!

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