Thursday, September 30, 2010

Counting Stars - Andrew Peterson

Lost in wonder at these stars

Counting Stars
Artist: Andrew Peterson (http://www.andrew-peterson.com/)
Label: Centricity Music
Length: 12 tracks/43:44 minutes

I am a huge fan of Andrew Peterson, having almost all of his releases. Counting Stars may be his best yet and my personal favorite. What is somewhat surprising is that this is a little more acoustic and folksy than some of his recent recordings that were more rock oriented. For those who favor the latter, and want to hear Peterson cut loose, this could be a slight disappointment as the songs tend to be mellower.

The two songs that are driving, “You Came So Close” and “The Reckoning (How Long)” differ stylistically from the others in that they employ more electronic sounds and percussion. They almost don’t fit, but they do provide contrast.

Most of the songs are mid-tempo and are awash in beautiful acoustic sounds. “The Magic Hour” and “Isle of Skye” are piano-driven and bathed in minimal but gorgeous accompaniment. Perhaps Peterson was signaling this intention with the opening “Many Roads,” which starts with nothing but strings.

That’s not to say that this is sparse. Produced by Ben Shive with Andy Gullahorn, who also perform on piano (Shive) and guitar (Gullahorn), there is a rich blend of sounds. The prevalence of warm acoustic tones gives this a timeless quality.

Peterson’s songwriting is as good as ever. It’s interesting that though there are no songs written specifically for “praise and worship,” this leads me to such a peaceful place that I want to look up in wonder at the stars that are too numerous to count. The lyrics are mature and poetic communicating hope and encouragement. As he typically does, Andrew weaves thoughts and stories about family life together with lofty spiritual themes.

On “World Traveler” he surprises with lines about a personal journey, “I walked the hills of the human soul, a tender girl / I’m a world traveler /She opened the gate and took my hand, led me into the mystic land where galaxies swirl / So many mysteries I never will unravel / I want to travel the world.”

His first music video, something he promised himself that he would never do, also pays tribute to his wife. Peterson said he gets emotional every time he sees the older couples dancing in “Dancing in the Minefields.” You can watch the YouTube video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtTa81LyuQM&feature=related. It’s so well done that I hope he does this again.

I’m sure that a lot of work went into this, but the flow makes this feel like this is more than just Peterson striving to come up with something. The Psalmist reminds us that “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1a ESV). God must have had a hand in this because Peterson’s labor has not been in vain. It has little of the edginess heard in some previous work, but that’s part of what makes this so inviting. God’s peace runs through it like a river. This is a masterpiece of folk, pop and spiritual reflection.
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