Release Date: November 30th 2018
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Last Words (Tenebrae) (from Resurrection Letters: Prologue)
- Well Done Good and Faithful (from Resurrection Letters: Prologue)
- The Ninth Hour (from Resurrection Letters: Prologue)
- Always Good (from Resurrection Letters: Prologue)
- God Rested (from Resurrection Letters: Prologue)
- His Heart Beats (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 1)
- Rised Indeed (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 1)
- Remember Me (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 1)
- I’ve Seen too Much (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 1)
- Remember and Proclaim (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 1)
- Maybe Next Year (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 1)
- Rise Up (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 1)
- Is He Worthy? (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 1)
- All Things Together (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 1)
- All Things New (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 2)
- Hosanna (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 2)
- All You’ll Ever Need (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 2)
- Invisible God (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 2)
- Hosea (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 2)
- Love is a Good Thing (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 2)
- Don’t Give Up on Me (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 2)
- Rocket (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 2)
- Windows in the World (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 2)
- I’ve Got News (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 2)
- The Good Confession (I Believe) (from Resurrection Letters: Vol. 2)
‘…My last two albums, Light for the Lost Boy and The Burning Edge of Dawn, were autobiographical, dealing in large part with a long, dark journey into—and just barely out of—what was a three-year depression. They’re not sad albums, necessarily, but they’re heavy. Having survived that valley, I was ready to stand in the sunlight on the opposing hill and sing out with joy to the God who had carried me through. It’s not as if everything is groovy all the time now, but as far as I can tell, that particular gauntlet has been run. That winter is over. My depression (or whatever it was) didn’t really end in an obvious, definable way, but one day I realized I was talking about it in the past tense. I’ve been aching for songs that reflected my own resurrection from that season of death, good and beautiful and necessary though it was. In that sense, I’m glad it took ten years to write this album, because I understand the resurrection better now, and long for it more than ever. My dream for Resurrection Letters, Vol. 1 is that it would be the kind of record people turned up to eleven on Easter Sunday, when the world gets its first blush of spring after the long winter, when the cherry trees are in blossom and daffodils are bursting from the ground and Christians all over the world celebrate something that happened—it really happened—two millennia ago…’ Leave it to Andrew Peterson to write something heartfelt and powerful, prolific and poetic, imaginative and ingenious, hopeful and at times humbling, as this once-in-a-lifetime singer-songwriter on the same level of lyrical genius as artists like Rich Mullins, Keith Green, Bebo Norman, Jason Gray and the ever reliable and emotive Brooke Fraser and Nichole Nordeman; has delivered arguably one of the most spirit-filled and dare I say it, life-changing music monuments of the 2018 year? It was and still is a pity that I didn’t discover Andrew’s work sooner (I was more of a recent fan starting off with his 2012 album Light for the Lost Boy), but in more recent times, I’ve come to love and appreciate the poetic nature of music, and how Andrew always has a knack of giving us theologically rich songs, so much so we may have to re-listen to the same song numerous times for us to understand and gain the wisdom that is permeating in every minute of the tracks written and recorded by Andrew, one of my favourite songwriters, period.
Andrew is quite possibly one of the most emotive, heartfelt, enjoyable and deep lyricists of today, in both the Christian and mainstream music circles. Andrew’s ability to infuse together poetry with song and music is nothing short of magnificent and remarkable. Since releasing some of his most heartfelt albums in Light For the Lost Boy, The Burning Edge of Dawn, After All These Years and the underrated Counting Stars, I have been listening to more and more of, and becoming re-acquainted with, Andrew’s material. While I still have a way to go, I must say this- Andrew is by far one of this generations much needed songwriters. And this is certainly true as he released Resurrection Letters: Prologue and Resurrection Letters: Vol 1, the former amounting to 5 songs and the latter 9, as they both released in February and March 2018 respectively, a mere ten years later than Resurrection Letters: Vol. 2 that surfaced in 2008. Each one of these three albums tell us a story, and just like how Star Wars IV, V and VI were created before Star Wars I, II and III; as was Resurrection Letters: Vol 2 before Vol 1 and Prologue. The themes of each of these songs follow a logical and sequential order: the Prologue album speaks of Christ’s death, and the feelings surrounding such a heavy event, while Resurrection Letters: Vol 1 showcases the joy and reverent awe surrounding the resurrection and what was felt during the time of Jesus’ rising from death and the grave.
And Resurrection Letters: Vol. 2 that released 10 years prior, well, that was and is in reference to living the Christian life, in light of the resurrection and how it impacts our day to day lives. With a career spanning more than 10 years, Andrew’s skill as both a musician and a children’s fantasy book author is certainly going to influence and change lives both now and into the future. Andrew’s skill is unparalleled within the music industry, and with songs like ‘Is He Worthy?’, ‘All Things New’, ‘The Good Confession’, ‘Always Good’, ‘Risen Indeed’ and ‘Remember Me’, some of the song highlights throughout these three volumes (that should and ought to be treated as one big CD encompassing the greatest event in human history!); this is a must-have if you are a fan of Andrew and his writings, or anyone who loves poetic and reflective music, akin to Jason Gray or Bebo Norman. Andrew’s music is destined to challenge and inspire, to bring to the fore feelings we’ve never felt, about the death and resurrection of Christ…which is a good thing. The world needs an Andrew Peterson, and with his music and songwriting unparalleled, Andrew, dare I say it, is carrying the mantle left by both Rich Mullins and Keith Green, and these three volumes of Resurrection Letters are evidence of this!
Released as three volumes over the span of 10 years, this collection of melodies by Andrew would perhaps be some of the most relatable, re inventive, emotional and encouraging set of songs I’ve heard throughout all of his music career thus far, and so to write a thorough and descriptive review of all his 25 songs (encapsulating 3 albums worth!), I’d be from here to eternity and then I’d need more time to write about these melodies- it’s that good! Let I just remind you that Andrew I reckon is perhaps one of the great modern poets/songwriters within the last 10-15 years or so, and so for these songs to be unveiled during Easter-time, and bring to the fore themes of loss, grief, wrestling, prayer, rejoicing and joyous resounding praise, all across the years, takes talent, and Andrew’s three musical sets of songs, are showings of his artistry. While I won’t delve too deep into each of the songs and what I believe they mean (compared to what Andrew really meant!), I will delve into each of the themes surrounding each ‘volume’, and highlighting some of my favourite songs from each of the sections. Andrew’s albums are always very lyrically rich, and so I tend to steer more toward the ‘general’ side when it comes to discussing Andrew’s albums…and that’s ok! Because frankly, in order for me to fully ‘get’ the songs, I’d probably would honestly need to listen to the songs again and again, and most times, there is no time to do this, when it comes to doing a review!
Resurrection Letters: Prologue released digitally February 9th 2018; and as we look within the 5 songs that make up this EP, we see a theme flowing through each one- the crucifixion, and what certain aspects of it were to different people affected in their own way by arguably one of the most corroborated with stories mankind has ever been a part of. In an agreeable sense, more people, regardless of religion, affirm the crucifixion ahead of the resurrection (I wonder why…), and so, there have been many ideas of what it truly meant for Jesus to die and what it looks like for mankind as a result of such a humble and selfless act of service. ‘Last Words’ begins the EP in a fashion that no other Christian artist has undertaken before- a song about the last words of Jesus spoken on His day of crucifixion. With phrases like ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’, ‘This day you will be with me in paradise’, ‘It is finished’ and ‘I Thirst’, to name a few; being layered again and again to create an ethereal 5 minute ‘song’ that brings the mood right down to sombre (as it should), Andrew shows ‘Last Words’ to be the perfect start to an EP that brings the listener back down to Earth, reminding us all of the enormity and the centrality of the crucifixion to the Christian faith, and what it really means for Christ to hang there on the cross for every person across history.
‘Well Done, Good And Faithful’ does not refer to faithful Christians running the race of perseverance as we strive to our goal at the end of the line as we venture into heaven at the end of our time here in earth, but rather, such a song as this is depicts a journey travelled on by Jesus, and why He endured what He did on that day. The phrase ‘well done good and faithful’ refers to Christ and not to us, because it is in Him that we are made perfect and whole. We will never live up to Christ’s good and perfect nature, and thus, on our own we will never be called good or faithful. This song is a humbling one, and one that is a standout amongst the 5 songs on Resurrection Letters: Prologue. ‘The Ninth Hour’, the sole instrumental track, feels a little out of place on the 5 track EP, and probably would’ve benefited if the length of the instrumental was that of a full-blown orchestral number, rather than just an interlude. Regardless, ‘Always Good’ and ‘God Rested’ end the EP in reflective and sombre fashion. ‘Always Good’ is a song of lament written based upon the death of a good friend’s wife hours after giving birth, and being reminded of the fact that even in difficulty, trials and adversity, God is always good, no matter if we believe it in that moment of uncertainty or not; while ‘God Rested’ is a moment of tranquillity and restfulness as Andrew links God resting on the seventh day after creating the world, to the Saturday when Jesus’ body was in the tomb and everyone and everything was still. As Andrew says in his own words, ‘… if it’s true that God is outside of Time, then it follows that he knew at creation, and when he established the Sabbath as a day of rest, that he was foreshadowing the Saturday when his son’s body would rest in the tomb…’
Being birthed on March 30th 2018, Resurrection Letters: Vol. 1 is a prequel 10 years in the making, as everyone, I’m sure critics and listeners included, were wondering what was going to be of Resurrection Letters: Vol. 1 after a very much successful Vol. 2 that was released in 2008 (this volume will be discussed further along in this review!). As Andrew divulges about the process that was in writing Vol. 1; ‘…once we started really digging into the songs, though, I had the feeling that they were more about the way Jesus’s resurrection plays itself out in our lives rather than the resurrection itself. What if, I thought, this was part two of a larger work, and part one was specifically about Jesus rising again? Since we were already entrenched in that album and I couldn’t exactly stop everything and write a bunch of songs about the greatest moment in the history of the universe, I hatched the dubious plan to stay the course but title it Resurrection Letters, Vol. 2. “It’s weird, so it’s great for marketing,” I told the label, and bless their hearts they went with it…[and so] earlier this year, with fear and trembling, I told the label it was time. We put it on the calendar, thereby imposing that great and terrible motivator called “a deadline.” We secured my old pal Ben Shive as the producer, which was fitting since he was also at the helm of volume two. And then time marched me inexorably closer to the first day in the studio, in October of 2017…’ And so that was how this new album by Andrew as born. And in all honesty, Prologue, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 are in fact one album, split in three parts. Just like how Stars Wars IV, V and VI tell one continuous story, so as these three Resurrection Volumes, each depicting a snapshot of the whole death/resurrection/Christian life story!
‘His Heart Beats’ begins the Vol. 1 section of the Anthology with such poetic and radio friendly fashion, and though the song itself is not a radio single…yet (‘It is Worthy’ is still making its mark, with Andrew experiencing the overflow of the excitement that comes with Chris Tomlin covering the song on his own album Holy Roar), the song does scream ‘radio single’ in the future, and I myself would be surprised if radio marketability experts did not seize the chance on this song in particular. Nevertheless, ‘His Heart Beats’ shows us the simple truth that is central and equally awe-inspiring, to our faith in general- that Jesus after death, rose to life, His heart beating once again after His life was no more. Musically, every element of the undertones, the drums, percussion, even the hammered dulcimer, all come together to create a song that isn’t as reflective as what Andrew normally creates, in fact, ‘His Heart Beats’ and the rousing declaratory stance of the song, is far from what Andrew normally does musically. Nevertheless, the song works, creating a celebratory atmosphere that oozes through every track on the album. Though the rest of the 9 song album (or is it a long-ish EP) doesn’t live up to the first song on a vibrant musical scale, what Andrew does offer to us through the remaining 8 songs are different angles of how the resurrection is felt, and how the resurrection and the enormity of it should be conveyed as we delve deeper into why the resurrection should’ve taken place at all in order for Christianity itself to be valid in every sense of the word!
‘Risen Indeed’ is a song full of response and what we as listeners ought to undertake if we truly believe the Lord God incarnate, Jesus, to be risen from the grave. We are to tell everyone of his resurrection (along with his death and why He came to the Earth in the first place!), and so this song is for us to realise and understand, the very importance of what rising from death really means. It means that death itself has no hold on us, because it was rid of at the cross where Jesus died. ‘Remember Me’ follows, and for me personally, it is my favourite song (aside from ‘It is Worthy’ which is on a whole new level of awe-inspiring and majestic) on this album, and ironically, it is a song that Andrew himself never wrote. Written by producer Ben Shive (who also produced albums for other singer-songwriter artists like Audrey Assad, John Tibbs, Ellie Holcomb and Bebo Norman), ‘Remember Me’ is rooted in Scripture, and much of the verses are taken directly from various books in the Bible- Psalms, Isaiah and Revelation to name a few. Part spoken word, part song, Andrew tries his hand at speaking scripture, as the song turns out to be one of the most lyrically rich moments out of every song Andrew has recorded in recent memory- the last time I’ve felt such lyrically rich imagery was ‘Don’t You Want to Thank Someone’ way back in 2012. ‘Remember and Proclaim’ is a happy communion song, as Andrew himself tells us that when we partake in communion, it is a two-fold approach- remembering Christ’s sacrifice and proclaiming His coming again…soon. Much of communion songs are reflective and sombre, and so, it is nice to see a melody more vibrant in its celebratory approach. ‘Maybe Next Year’ is a track full of hope and expectation, of longing and desiring for Jesus’ second coming to come sooner, as we anticipate a new Heaven and a New Earth; while ‘Rise Up’ is another Ben Shive penned track, as Andrew covers a song that about the rising up of us all on the last day when God comes again, returning to make all things right and whole.
‘All Things Together’ is a clever song in that it harkens back and takes us on a nostalgia journey, way back to ‘All Things New’, the first track on Resurrection Letters: Vol. 2, as this 3:25 melody reminds us all of how God makes all things, and holds everything together, even if we may not know or understand, while ‘Is He Worthy’, made famous further through Chris Tomlin’s rendition, is a classic call and response melody that asks the question –‘is anyone worthy, is anyone whole? Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?’ and as the song progresses, we see that yes, there is someone, and He is Jesus. ‘I’ve Seen Too Much’ rounds out Resurrection Letters, Vol. 1, and tells a story from the persona of Peter, disciple of Jesus. A song that states that because of what they have seen, the disciples cannot not talk about Jesus and the impact He’s had on their lives but also on the lives of mankind as a whole; the song can also resonate with modern folk today, yes, you and me. As Andrew relays about the meaning he’s gleamed from this song- ‘…in a conversation with a friend a few years ago about why I’m a Christian, my answer boiled down to this: I’ve seen too much. There are too many good and beautiful things, too many stories that cry out for things to be made right, too many lives changed, too much healing, too many examples of humble sacrifice in the face of great evil for there to be no meaning, no bright love on the other side of the veil. That reasoning may fall flat to you, but it’s enough for me. And Christianity makes the most sense not just of the brokenness of the world, but also its beauty and the inconsolable longing and profound wonder we all feel from time to time. The apostles were sent out into the world with a story to tell, and because they had seen the risen Christ up close, had eaten with him and touched his scars, they were willing to die for the truth of that story. Because if it’s true, it changes everything…’ It is in light of this quote above that has made me affirm and appreciate my stance as a Christian. While I may not be at a place for a full-blown argument with someone else of a different faith than me, I will get there in the future, and this song has helped me, as I’m sure others as well, in their journey to defend what they know to be true!
Then there’s Resurrection Letters, Vol. 2. Arguably the ‘forgotten’ album out of the three, this 11 track Ben Shive-produced collection about the resurrection and its impact in our lives, in the here and now (as opposed to Resurrection Letters, Vol. 1 which was about the impact of the resurrection at the time of it happening); is yet another heartfelt gem. But who am I to highlight an album like this, one that has been released for 10 years or so? If you have been this far into my review by now, you would’ve been an Andrew Peterson fan, and thus have heard Resurrection Letters, Vol. 2 to death, or you just love my reading style. Either way, I’m not going to delve into the songs as I’ve delved into songs from Prologue or Vol. 1. Let me just say that songs like ‘All Things New’, ‘Hosea’, All You’ll Ever Need’, ‘Don’t Give Up on Me’ and the final track ‘The Good Confession (I Believe)’ are certain standouts on an album that reminds us all that the resurrection of Christ ought to take root in us and have a special significance as to how we live our lives once we understand fully the gravity of His sacrifice. ‘All Things New’ paints a similar picture and theme to Steven Curtis Chapman’s song of the same name, while ‘Hosea’ gives us vivid imagery of the plight of Hosea in the bible, and how the Lord instructed him to marry and stay married to a promiscuous woman. Hosea and his plight mirrors that of God’s love and devotion to humanity and the church, and how we run after worldly things again and again even though we profess and proclaim our love for Him. The last song on the album ‘The Good Confession’ is another standout; and reminds me thematically of Rich Mullin’s ‘Creed’. A declaratory song about professing faith in Jesus Christ, this song can be used by many as a way of expressing outwardly what they inwardly assert to be the truth.
‘…if God gave me any talent as a writer, it was ultimately for the purpose of bringing him glory, of drawing attention to his goodness and his gospel, for the building of his kingdom. That can flesh itself out in many ways, vocationally speaking, but for me it means writing the kind of songs I’ve always written—wannabe mashups of Rich Mullins and James Taylor, with a bit of Paul Simon, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Marc Cohn thrown in. The birth of Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” is of utmost importance, and I did my best to write about that with the Behold the Lamb of God album—but it’s only part of the story. The gospel, after all, isn’t just about the birth and death of Jesus—it’s also about his victory over death and his promise to return. For the early Christians, the resurrection was central to the story. And it’s no overstatement that if Jesus didn’t rise from the grave then there would be no Christianity. But again and again the apostles staked their lives on this crazy fact: their friend had been tortured, murdered, and buried, and then one day he showed up again in the flesh, complete with the scars to prove it. How can you explain the birth and propagation of the church apart from this fact? Why would these people have been willing to die unless they had seen, in the flesh, the defeat of death in the resurrection of Jesus? I can think of no other satisfying answer than this: it happened. And if it happened, I must do my best to write about it…’ Encapsulating everything that I could and can say about Andrew Peterson and his music into a review wouldn’t do Andrew or his music justice- it’s too good. One of the most underrated music artists in history since Rich Mullins during the 1990s, it is this above quote by Andrew in one of his personal blogs over at TheRabbitRoom website, that really captures what the heart of Christianity is really about. That if there was no resurrection, if there was no defeat of death, then the basis we have for Christianity is nothing but just a futile set of rules and regulations…it means nothing. And so for us to declare Jesus’s resurrection is a big claim- for if it is false, then we better find another religion to cling to…and quickly; but if it is true, then what a defeat from death it was! Andrew’s unique ability to speak powerful truths and present them in a way that is reflective but hard-hitting is a gift. Andrew’s follow-up to his 2015 album The Burning Edge of Dawn is nothing short of exemplary. One of today’s most inspiring lyricists I’ve listened to in my own life so far, Andrew ought to be commended in continuing to create such inspiring and uplifting music, thereby giving hope that within a sea of Christian music artists, there are still some artists that write poignant music yet!
10 songs to listen to: Always Good, Well Done Good and Faithful, Is He Worthy?, Remember Me, Risen Indeed, All Things New, Invisible God, Don’t Give Up on Me, The Good Confession (I Believe), All Things Together
RIYL: Jason Gray, Bebo Norman, Rich Mullins, Keith Green, The Gray Havens, Audrey Assad, Jon Foreman