For years I’ve had the habit of checking the Andrew Peterson message board at least two or three times each day. Tonight was no different. I tired of channel flipping and political talk and decided to see what my long-time friends on the AP board had to say. In the same way I might make a quick, “how ya doin'” phone call to a good friend, checking the board is one way I stay in touch with my cyber friends.
The post looked innocuous enough, titled Okay… take deep breaths…. What’s this, a follow up on Michael Phelps with a new training method he’ll be using for the 2012 Olympics? I had no idea, but I click all the posts, so I didn’t hesitate to click this one. Amazingly, what I learned was that Andrew Peterson’s new record company, Centricity has constructed an on-line jukebox which plays Resurrection Letters, Volume II, from beginning to end. Believe it. As of this writing, it’s true.
Here’s the text of the post, made by a poster that goes by the screen name “kanichol”:
I was trying to find a song list for the new record so I did a search on Google …. I found a link to this webpage.
From there you can get song summaries for all of the songs on Resurrection Letters Volume II. That’s not all… you can also get a free download of Hosanna. Oh and one more tiny little thing…… it includes a link to a music player on the Centricity site where you can listen to the entire CD right now.
I rushed on over and have been playing the record continuously for over two hours now. I’ve already pre-ordered my copies, but how could I turn down an opportunity to hear the songs today?
Listen, there will be plenty of time for reviews, but when I get such nervous tension, I have to do something about it now, or I run the risk of having my head explode. As long as I’ve been listening to Andrew Peterson music, I’ve had this problem. So forgive me. As a method of cheap therapy, and so nobody has to clean up the mess from my exploding head, I hope you will indulge me for a paragraph, or two, or three.
When Andrew Peterson releases a record, I try to moderate my excitement, with little success. I am almost fifty years old for gosh sakes. I can’t be wide-eyed and giddy at the release of a CD, can I?
Yes, I can. Especially now that I have heard it.
So exciting. So surprising. So compelling. So emotional. So truthful. So … Andrew (Andrew doesn’t approve of ellipses, so I did that for fun). Talk about a good shock, like rounding the bend of an unfamiliar road, finding an astounding piece of topography.
“Windows to the World,” a lyrical cousin to “Let There Be Light,” simply wasted me. The hot tears leaked from my eyes as naturally as condensation from a glass pitcher of ice water. The viewpoint communicated so effectively in this song is what attracted me to the music of Andrew Peterson in the first place. Thinking back, after spinning Carried Along that first time through, it’s like I found an old soulmate, a guy that saw like me, felt like me, and had the guts to—say it out loud. And most relevantly, said it in a way that clearly and concisely communicated. I know most of you feel the same way. “Windows to the World” simply reinforces that sense.
I don’t want this article to become some kind of breathless book, so I’m just going to make some first blush, fly-by observations. This is an appetizer, not the main course.
“I’ve Got News” does what most of Andy’s catalogue does for us, talks to us as fellow human beings, with temptation, struggles, and pain. Andy’s lyrics never preach or talk down to us, despite being full of Biblical images and references. So on some level, this song is the later day prototype for all of AP’s work. The double-entendre of the “good news” reference is a tasty sweet icing on the cake. As always, the cake would be exquisite alone. But because we are used to rich, luxurious icing from AP, we anticipate it and are never disappointed. The extras light us up just like a birthday cake (inside joke for long time AP supporters).
“The Good Confession” is Andy’s story, but it’s my story, and your’s too, I’ll bet. “The story of one of us is the story of us all,” says Frederick Buechner. I walked an aisle. I had some church camp experiences that blew my socks off. Dedication, rededication. Flying. Falling. All the while, “I believe He is the Christ, Son of the Living God.” I don’t know much, but I do know that “I was blind and now I see.” This seemingly temporal thread has eternity written all over it, though it’s often hard to apprehend. Songs like this help to bring that vision into focus.
“All You Will Ever Need.” This is the one that Andy and Ben wrote via instant messenger. It’s one of the most memorable on the entire project. Leave it to writers like Andy and Ben to reframe old stories into a new compelling vista.
Biggest surprise of all the songs? “Rocket.” What a bright, sweet, satisfying, musically adventuresome song. AP may have just recorded the world’s first banjo infused reggae song. Is that our old friend Ron Block? The sense of excitement is palpable. I can’t wait to get these lyrics in my hands while I listen.
As usual, there are no duds. Each song is written and executed with grace and style. Though I don’t have the technical expertise to understand exactly why, as a whole, this album is just better. Andrew Peterson is better. Indeed, his supporting cast is better. Those songs I haven’t mentioned are also exceptional. But I’d like you to experience a few of them for yourself first, without any quasi reviewer running interference for you.
Here’s the nice thing about writing this letter about The Resurrection Letters, Volume II. These are initial impressions. There’s many more literate ways it could be stated, but the stark truth is that Andrew Peterson’s work is “deep,” but not esoterically deep. Because if we take the time to listen—really listen, we will find. It’s deep in the way that we expect to mine nuggets of truth with repeated listening. Werner Herzog’s exploration of the Antarctic in the documentary I recently saw, Encounters at the End of the World, features some of the most curiously beautiful scenes you may ever see–underwater. The music of Andrew Peterson is like that. The deeper we go, the more the beauty is unexpected and astounding. So these, my initial impressions will be followed by years of discoveries and fresh nuance. An Andrew Peterson project keeps on giving.
I’m pumped. The care with which this recording was made is more than obvious with even one listen. It’s thematic infrastructure frames, highlights, and supports its individual parts. Like Behold the Lamb of God, The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ tells the story of Christ, Resurrection Letters, Volume II tells—you guessed it—the story of Christ. We hear echos of familiar words and phrases; resurrection and redemption, but with an original, creative spirit. It reminds us that this story—our story—is alive and well. It’s breaths. It’s real. The sound is thick, rich. The harmonies are wonderfully lush, almost breathtaking. The choir background vocals ring with heavenly reverence, cohesion we might only expect from fewer voices. The instrumentation is precise, busy when a big sound is needed, sparse when appropriate. I can’t wait to read the liner notes to see who did what on each track.
When are the CDs going to be sent out? October 21 seems like an awfully long way away. Are we there yet?