The Law of Gravity

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I just got back from a quick visit to Andy Gullahorn‘s childhood home in Texas, and it was exactly as you would imagine it to be: a picturesque ranch house, ATVs, big trucks, wide fields pocked with cow patties, and Andy’s dad in the backyard teaching Andy’s daughter how to shoot a gun. I’m not joking.

If you’ve seen Gullahorn live, you’ve probably heard him talk about the fact that he’s from Texas. Most people from Texas can hardly stop talking about the fact that they’re from Texas. They brag about how everything in Texas is better than everywhere else, and how Texas was the only state that used to be a country, and how they’re allowed to fly their flag at the same height as the American flag, and how guns are cool and so is Texas. I remember, for example, George W. Bush responding to the accusation that he has a swagger by saying that in Texas they just call it walking.

I tend to roll my eyes at Texophilia (a word I might have just coined), but I have to admit that there is some evidence that Texas is pretty great. Take my recent trip to Laity Lodge for example: three days with the Gullahorns, Buddy Greene and Jeff Taylor, Eugene Peterson, a delightful group of attendees, fine meals, mist on the Frio River, a Steinway piano and a library of my favorite books.

Then there’s Taco Cabana, beef brisket, Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove (my favorite western book and movie), Lyle Lovett and a passel of other singer/songwriters like Townes Van Zant and Guy Clark. So yes, Texas has some cool stuff–but I think a lot of that has to do with its sheer size. It’s a matter of mathematics that they’re bound to have a few more notable residents than, say, Rhode Island.

But when I watch Andy play his songs, I wonder if there’s more to it than math. There must be something in the water, I think. Otherwise, how could he do that? How did he just move an audience from howling laughter to deep stillness in the space of a few lines? And as a songwriter I wonder how he keeps finding angles, new ways of looking at things, new turns on old clichés. I wonder how a guy who grew up shooting deer, riding four-wheelers, raising cattle, and baling hay could have learned to write songs about not just funny things but wise things: faithful marriage, obedience, Christ, sin, children–Kingdom things. I wonder how a guy who never reads can be so deft with words. And so deft with sideburns. I wonder how someone from the cockiest state in the union–yes, union, Texans–can so humbly tell a story.

I have a hunch Gullahorn will read this, so to preserve our friendship I’ll stop gushing. But I wanted to tell you his new record is about to release (December 1) and that you can order it here in the Rabbit Room Store. If you pre-order you’ll get an immediate download of the album.

Like his previous albums Room to Breathe and Reinventing the Wheel, this one features little more than Andy’s voice and acoustic guitar. Of course, his wife Jill Phillips sings on it, and cellist David Henry added some pretty sounds. But what’s front and center here are songs. Excellent songs, from start to finish. And that’s exactly how Texas wants it.

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


14 Comments

  1. Curt McLey

    @curtmcley

    I’ve been living with The Law of Gravity for a week or so, so I’ve been pondering some of the questions you raise, Andy. I don’t know how much an aritist realizes that it’s hard to separate the work from the worker, the art from the artist. And it’s not in a weird fanboy way. More so, it’s like one is taken in by the stories, whether they are song biographies or just creative writing. In the same way one may like a particular character on-screen, one develops a like for the way a particular recording artists communicates. To loosely quote Karl Childers from Slingblade, “I like the way he talks.”

    I’ve had that Ernest Hemingway quote about Faulkner running through my mind this week as I’ve listened to Law of Gravity over and over again, and it reminds me of Gullahorn’s writing:

    Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”

    As I’ve listened to Law of Gravity, the thought keeps running through my mind: Gullahorn doesn’t need big words because the emotions and ideas are framed so cleverly and skillfully, we just get it without the fancy footwork.

    Since the CD I’ve heard is a download, I haven’t seen the lyrics yet, but this record seems to be like every other record that Andy Gullahorn writes in this regard (Old Hat is one Andy didn’t mention): Words are short but the depth of emotion is tall. It really sucks when your driving down the interstate and “New Pair of Eyes” fills a guy’s eyes with tears and the Kleenex box is on the floor behind the driver’s seat.

    See, I know Andy Gullahorn’s secret. I’ve been following his music from day one. He lowers our expectations–small words, a low-key stage demeanor, a CD cover featuring a torn old hat, stuff like that–and we wonder if he can even carry a tune. Then while we slack off on defense, he drives right by us and slam dunks with authority (the metaphor is appropriate, since Andy is a sports fan).

    This is my round-about way of seconding Andy’s motion to buy Andy’s new record. I was going to write a review, but maybe I just did.

  2. PaulH

    I have been enjoying it immensely, all week; even the irreversible mental images I have from “Money Where Her Mouth Is”

  3. Jim A

    AP, I’ve had this within the hour that he announced it’s availability. It was not a long drawn out thought process of whether to get it or wait for some gift bearing event. And as we say here in Texas, that dog’ll hunt! What an awesome record Andy made. Two or three of the songs on this album Andy was gracious enough to play in my living room last summer.
    After listening to it at least a dozen times at this point, I think I’m ready to claim that this might be his most personal record. Yes, he’s had songs before (“That Man”) that stop you dead in your tracks and do a quick inventory of your life and beliefs. But almost every tune on this record has Andy opening himself up.
    And he does all of this without loosing an ounce of his patented Gullahorn wit. Veterans of his music are much too savvy to start chuckling at lines like “have you ever been so selfish that you let your baby cry while you finished up a video game. I haven’t either, that’s pretty bad.”. Because you just KNOW that by the end of the thing he’s going to have punched you in the gut really hard with a strong Texas right upper cut as he does here (not putting in the spoiler for the rookies out there.)
    And underlying all of these songs is the amazing technical acumen of his guitar work. Having been within 5 feet of him as he played for me and 40 good friends, I can say that the guitar is truly like another appendage for him. He makes it look like there is 0 effort to play.

    One last thing. The bonus song (Working Man) should definitely come with a warning. First I cried, then I laughed, then I wet myself laughing (somewhere near the bridge and the “modulation”), then I almost went over an actual bridge with the ending. All while driving home… from work. Cause… (wait for it), I’m a workin’ man….

    3 words to those still reading this comment – Buy This Album. Don’t wait, don’t walk, RUN to the nearest rabbitroom/jillphillips.com outlet and buy this album. You deserve it.

  4. Robbrucejr

    I wholly agree with you, Curt. Gullahorn’s subtle mannerisms, sideways glances, and self-depricating humor set the stage like props. Then he strolls in and spits out some Shakespeare level word play in a Texas drawl (please, don’t think Kenneth Brannagh in Wild West). Within seconds he’s got you hooked. Call it a feint, a hustle, a misdirection, whatever. I think it’s a perfectly executed game-plan by a guy that knows his own strengths and weaknesses.

  5. Aaron Roughton

    Mr. Peterson, I, like you, started out as a Floridian (Floride? Floridiot?). Texas was an acquired taste for me. Austin is a great place to get acclimated. However, it didn’t take me any time at all to become a fan of Mr. Gullahorn. I’ve been hoping you’re right about their being something in the water since I’ve lived out here. Maybe I can catch what Andy has. I haven’t listened to the download enough to speak educatedamubly about it (that’s a word I learned in Texas), but the first few passes have been golden. And like Curt, I can’t wait to get my hands on the liner notes of The Law of Gravity.

  6. Marcus Goodyear

    I love Texas but the Texophilia even gets on my nerves sometimes, too.

    So glad you enjoyed Laity Lodge. Thanks for the good words. I can’t speak for Steven and Mark, but I’d love to see all of the SquareHalo Alliance folks come out to Laity eventually.

  7. Naomi

    Texas rocks, even down here in the Armpit O’ Texas where I live. There are many reasons to be proud of this great state. Andy’s music makes me that much more so. I’m very excited about the new CD!

    P.S. Can I request more concerts south of Dallas? It takes me ten hours of straight driving just to get there. (In case you didn’t catch it, I’m bragging about the immensity of my state.) We’ve driven the five to six hours to get to Austin just to see Behold the Lamb, and it was so worth it, we made a similar drive the following year just to see it again. But Dallas is a bit far.

  8. Ruble

    The album is great…my favorite so far is “I haven’t either.” I heard somebody comment about the last record that AG sets trap songs that catch you and you do not see it coming…that one got me big time.

    If you guys like the album version of Working Man go search YouTube and hear the alternate ending…It is hilarious.

    Chris

  9. Jeff Taylor

    This is like Andy’s last record for me. I’m listening, and I can’t stop…
    I had the privilege of watching him play some of these live this past week at Laity Lodge in TX, and I had so much fun watching friends in the audience be pulled in laughing, crying, and be mesmerized by this humble, likable guy.
    I was sent to the grocery for some mild cheddar the other day, and “New Pair of Eyes” came on. My son had just emailed me a smiling picture of my new grandson who is due in 7 weeks. Needless to say, I sat in the parking lot wiping the tears. I will be forcing all of my friends to listen to this disk. (at least the bonus track…)

  10. Nick Underwood

    I am consistently impressed with the music that the Andy’s write. Not only do I love the melodies and chording, but I am struck by the theological depth that they can put into three and a half minutes. What an amazing God that he would give such grand gifts to his people. Great work.

  11. Britt the Texophile

    I agree with all the praise that’s been lofted toward Andy’s newest. I also can’t stop listening to it. The snaps and claps on the opening suck me in like a black hole and then I can’t stop until the end.

    However, I must take issue with the Texas abuse that is being peddled here. Particularly this statement: “So yes, Texas has some cool stuff–but I think a lot of that has to do with its sheer size.”

    This is like saying, “Yes, Andrew Peterson is talented–but I think a lot of that has to do with his sheer ability as a musician, writer, and human being.” You can’t fault Texas for being big any more than you can fault Andrew for being Andrew. That’s what makes it Texas! And that’s what makes you Andrew Peterson. And Andrew Peterson is awesome and talented. But Texas is … Texas.

  12. Dan Taylor

    Wow…where to start. I have just recently been exposed to the talents of Andy Gullahorn.Having just seen him in concert here in Cleburne TEXAS…I have been a fan of Andrew Peterson for years and am ashamed I was so ignorant of Andy Gullahorn. I Had the pleasure of watching the folks for a day. Playing music rehearsing and laughing.Andy Gullahorn impressed me with his quiet mastery of his craft. I look forward to hearing more of his and his wifes work…Come on home to Texas soon…

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