Sunday, January 2, 2011

Review - Andrew Peterson's Counting Stars

For those moments when words fail, Andrew Peterson fills in the blanks, and he does it for God. Peterson’s worship overflows in a way that makes listeners desperately thirst to do the same – his new album is like a master painting that inspires others to pick up a brush and try to paint, too.

I’ve never heard the likes of Peterson – he truly wields his acoustic guitar and smooth voice like a paintbrush as he sings to life the spiritual and emotional beauties that overflow in the life of one who knows God. Counting Stars, the title of his most recent album released in July 2010, is an appropriate one. The collection of songs whispers of the treasures of unseen worlds, and reaches out an invisible hand to brush the edge of the infinite and flawless.

Peterson was born in small-town Florida in the 1980s, where he dreamed of adventure as he poured through fiction books like those of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Eventually, he moved to Nashville, where he began his career as a musician. His song “Nothing to Say” became a Top Ten radio hit in 2001. In addition, Peterson received a Dove Award nomination for his single "Family Man," and has since garnered much respect among other Christian musicians. Peterson is also an accomplished fantasy novelist as the author of the Wingfeather Saga, which won the 2010 Christy Award for best young adult fiction. He is married with two sons.

Peterson has frequently been compared to Rich Mullins, and rightly so. The self-proclaimed Mullins aficionado writes profound, yet conversational lyrics and plays with a mellow, folk-like sound that hearkens back to older Mullins songs like “Here in America.” However, Peterson drops the early 90’s flair and sticks to simple, effective instrumentation with acoustic guitar, piano, bass, light percussion, and occasionally strings and a french horn. The result is a sound that lends itself to quietness of mind, and simple consideration. Peterson invites us into this mindset in his charming opening song “Many Roads”:
If you'll step inside this great glass elevator/It'll take us up above the city lights/To where the planet curves away to the equator/I want to show you something fine.

There’s more to Peterson than just good sound, though. Clearly, he knows why he’s doing what he’s doing – God has given him a gift, and he wants to squeeze every last bit of joyful worship out of it to give back to his Lord. A listener will never get the impression that Peterson threw his lyrics together quickly or carelessly. The words are consistently thoughtful and thought provoking, simultaneously ministering to listeners in a raw, human-to-human way as in the song “You Came So Close,” and leading them past the wall of the mundane to the realm of the invisible God as in the more melancholy “The Last Frontier.”

Counting Stars covers a rich range of themes, from fidelity to the fear of God – basically, anything that stirs up Peterson’s bone-deep emotion. However, the songwriter’s central concept is that beauty saturates human experience, which he speaks extensively of in “The Magic Hour.” Though Peterson is too subtle to out-and-out state that theme, it’s incredibly clear. Just as the promise that Abraham’s descendants would outnumber the stars (Genesis 15:5) began with God, every statement about life that Peterson makes points to God, its origin.

No matter where a Christian listener is in life, Counting Stars will renew the childlike wonder of the listener’s soul. Peterson is an artist worth commending and supporting as he continues to use his talent to glorify God.

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