Andy Gullahorn is a fixture on the Behold the Lamb of God tour. I’ve watched him play and sing nearly every year at the Ryman, marveling at the clarity of his voice, his touch, dynamics, tone, and sweet sense of taste on the guitar. He seems to do everything with ease, a kind of graceful, offhanded carelessness.
Andy gave me a copy of Fault Lines after the Ryman show in 2016. On the way home, I put it in my van’s CD player and heard the first cut, “Not Too Late.”
I’m a listener first, a lover of music, so when I first listen to an album I don’t hear it as a musician, trying to figure out chords or structure or rhyme schemes. What hits me initially is the “sonic landscape” and the lyrics. Fault Lines is an album to explore; it stands the test of repeated listening.
The landscape of Fault Lines is built on Andy’s tone-filled, tasteful guitar playing, but the heart is of course lyrical. Andy’s understated vocals deliver his words with all the power of a trusted friend putting his hand on your shoulder. Driving home that night, I listened:
Death has a strong grip,
But there’s nothing like the power the hand of God can bring
I’ve been to hell,
And that’s how I can tell you with authority
It’s not too late to change your mind,
It’s not too late for the truth this time
Not too late to fall on your knees,
Not too late for apologies
Grace is more than a concept to believe in
It’s something more real than your beating heart
It runs to the depths of where you are
It follows you there, retracing your steps
Whispering over and over again…
That it’s not too late, not too late, not too late.
Halfway through I had tears in my eyes, and when the song ended I hit replay. And this time I noticed the bubbling joy of the guitar lines down underneath, It’s not too late, not too late. Like his vocals, the guitar lines are still understated but they contrast the sparser verses, underscoring the revelation: it’s not too late. I had tears in my eyes again.
The next song, “Is It Real?” grabbed me with the opening guitar tones, and then the lyrics began, sung in that same winsome attitude:
There’s a man who looks like Donald Trump in front of me in the communion line…
I smiled at the image contrasted with the incongruity of soft guitar and a sensitive vocal.
As he finished the verse (hilariously written) I burst out laughing.
Here’s a unique thing about Andy. He has a singular way of occasionally using an absurd and unexpected image to loosen tight lips and closed-up hearts. You let your guard down. Laughter opens your soul, and then he can put any number of good things in it.
The next verse made me reflect and remember. By the end of the bridge I was crying, and by the end I was reflecting again—not just mental reflection but the kind that engages the heart.
Fault Lines stayed in my CD player for at least a solid month. I soaked in it every time I drove anywhere.
The most obvious words that come to mind about Andy’s music are honesty and grace. It’s honest to the bones, music without pretense in a world addicted to appearance, image, likes, and wanting to seem. His lyrics, singing, guitar playing, arranging, and production are infused with a bald-faced truthfulness, and a devil-may-care sense of ease. There’s a feeling of grace about it all, grace both as the unmerited favor of God and also grace as Jesus had it—the grace of a gymnast or ballet dancer coming from a deep core of strength. Although I’m sure he worked hard on this album, nothing in Fault Lines sounds labored. Everything, including the lyrics, sounds like it just fell out of Andy’s mouth or hands. C. S. Lewis wrote, “A sentence must both sound and say.” Andy’s words roll off the tongue like a conversation but carry images that go deep into the listener.
He said “You’re never gonna lose my love.
Go ahead and try.”
So you drank from the river
Until it all ran dry
And you run from your conscience
As fast as you can
‘Cause you’re going to Hell
Again and again
But oh, even then
There is hope
There is grace
Even Hell is not a God-forsaken place
From a musical perspective, the arrangements never get too big. There’s a temptation in popular music forms to take every song from a quiet beginning to a giant crescendo filled with guitars, keyboards, pounding drums, and singers belting at full lung capacity. This trick can easily turn into a way to manipulate the listener.
Andy doesn’t go for manipulation; the simple honesty infusing his music is a much more devastating musical weapon. He maintains a gentle, subtle touch on songs like “I Want to Be Well,” even at their biggest moments. At a high dynamic of the album on “Make It Through,” as he sings harder, with more instruments playing, the production isn’t overdone; everything supports the lyric.
Other songs, like “Not Going Anywhere” and “Freedom 2.0” (which, again, will make you laugh and cry), are sparse guitar treatments where the guitar playing, singing, and lyrics will keep your mind and heart engaged.
George MacDonald wrote, “Friends, if we be honest with ourselves, we shall be honest with each other.” Andy’s music feels like the music of a friend who can be lovingly honest because he’s honest with himself.
Listening to Fault Lines will always be a cathartic musical experience for me. If you’ve been wanting an album with depth, humor, insight, memorable melodies, and the real power that comes from honesty and grace, Fault Lines is it. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll reflect, and you’ll enjoy a sense of being washed and cleansed.
And click here to read our first Old Favorites post about Andrew Peterson’s Clear to Venus, here for our second about Arthur Alligood’s One Silver Needle, and here for our third about Sandra McCracken’s “Dynamite.”
Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he's not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin' on audiences around the world, he's taking care of his donkey named "Trash" and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.