(This is a review I wrote for our church's young adult e-newsletter. If you're subscribed to The Know, that was your spoiler warning. I don't know if it does the album justice, but it's the best I could come up with. When I get enamoured with a CD I want to listen to it again and again...and then I want to share it with everyone I think would appreciate it. So it's fun to be able to review an album I feel that way about. Although I'd much rather take a drive with you while playing and talking about the songs. However, since I can't...)
The Far Country – Andrew Peterson, 2005
Andrew Peterson just might be one of the best Christian artists you’ve never heard of. While his distinct voice takes some warming-up to, his songwriting abilities are very solid, and he is definitely worthy of the many comparisons to Rich Mullins that have been made by various reviewers. His 2004 Christmas CD, Behold the Lamb of God, ranks as one of my personal all-time favorite CDs. (If you’ve never heard me rave about this CD, ask me sometime; just make sure you have about a half hour to spare. It’s amazing. Go buy it. No, really!) Peterson always manages to combine thoughtful lyrics with acoustic, organic music.
Peterson describes his latest album, The Far Country, as “a joyful album about death.” While this sounds potentially contradictory, AP explores topics like death and heaven with honesty and quite a bit of hope. The overall message of the album is this: We are living in the far country; heaven is our real home. One of the stand-out tracks for me is “Lay Me Down,” which makes statements like, “When you lay me down to die I’ll miss my boys, I’ll miss my girls; lay me down and let me say goodbye to this world. You can lay me anywhere, oh but just remember this: when you lay me down to die, you lay me down to live.”
The musical style of the album as a whole is upbeat, even when dealing with serious themes. Peterson stays true to his acoustic sound (guitars, harmonies, and an occasional hammered dulcimer) that has served him well for many albums. However, several tracks (most noticeably the title track) groove with a bit more driving electric sound.
Though the majority of the songs stay within the overall theme of life after death, Peterson offers several solid songs on other topics. “Little Boy Heart Alive” celebrates the child-like wonder of Peterson’s sons with lots of literary and spiritual allusions. “For the Love of God” is a song about marriage written for the wedding of a friend who was notoriously bad at relationships. “Mystery of Mercy,” originally recorded by Caedmon’s Call (though written by AP), sings about the grace of God that goes far beyond what we deserve or understand.
Lyrics for the whole album, as well as several music clips, can be found at Andrew Peterson’s website.
For a review (by a real music reviewer) from Christianity Today, click here (The Far Country was also named as one of Christianity Today’s top albums of 2005). [Why do I feel like Reading Rainbow right now? “But you don’t have to take MY word for it…”]
As I have listened to this album over the past month, I have found a great deal of comfort and a widened perspective. While life has its challenges, because of Christ we can have a hope that goes beyond what we can see.
As AP sings on “More”:
“There is more
More than all this pain
More than all the falling down
And the getting up again
There is more
More than we can see
From our tiny vantage point
In this vast eternity
There is more.”