Several months ago, I was browsing through the music section at one of my favorite thrift stores when I stumbled across an unusual looking Christmas album. Rather than the glossy, glowy sheen of most holiday album covers, this album had a simple, stark, black and white photograph of a winter pine, accompanied by the title Midwinter. Intrigued, I opened the liner notes, and was surprised to discover that one of my favorite singer-songwriters, David Wilcox, was mentioned in the acknowledgments and was involved in the project.
Midwinter, by Minnesota singer-songwriter Peter Mayer, works in the same vein as Sting’s If On A Winter’s Night…, in that it explores both holiday specific tunes and themes of the winter season in general. What sets this album apart is Mayer’s beautiful lyricism, which is on display immediately in the opening track “Stables”:
In Bethlehem a manger waits
Long ago and so today
Where hatred-weary people pray
Love will come and lay there
And so do countless stables stand
In hearts as harsh as desert lands
Rough shelters in the wind and sand
That love may come and stay there
Love that opens fists of hate
Heaps up gold on beggars’ plates
Love that shows a kindly face
To enemies and strangers
And the walls of stables tremble so
When the winds of fear and judgment blow
For a stable hopes in love alone
And knows that love’s the answer
O Love, the prophet’s only word
The only lesson left to learn
The only end of heaven’s work
And the only road that goes there
Love that sees with mercy’s eyes
Holds its arms out open wide
Threads its loom with separate lives
And weaves them all together
So may the lamps of stables glow
Brightly that their light may go
For miles in the darkness, so
Love will find its way there
In “The Houses of Winter” Mayer poetically meditates on both the warmth and harshness of the darkest season of the year. Another song that stands out for me is the spiritually themed “God Is A River”, which sounds like it could’ve been written by our own Andrew Peterson.
If you’re looking a holiday/winter album a bit off the beaten track this year, I’d highly recommend Peter Mayer’s Midwinter.
Chris is an Associate Professor of English at Bristol Community College in Massachusetts, and is an arts and culture writer whose works have appeared in publications such as Tweetspeak Poetry, The Curator, The Molehill, and The Rabbit Room. Chris is also the author of several books of poetry, including his latest collection Winter Poems. In 2018 he helped co-found The Poetry Pub, an online community for poets. He enjoys walking in the woods, visiting coffee shops, and poking through used bookstores with his wife Jen. You can read more of his writing at ChrisYokel.Substack.com.