Release Date: October 25th 2019
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Gather Round, Ye Children, Come
- Passover Us (feat. Jess Ray)
- So Long, Moses
- Deliver Us (feat. Scott Mulvahill)
- O Come, O Come Emmanuel
- Matthew’s Begats
- It Came to Pass (feat. Andy Gullahorn)
- Labor of Love (feat. Jill Phillips)
- The Holy and the Ivy
- While Shepherds Watched
- Behold the Lamb of God
- The Theme of My Song
Andrew Peterson is one of my favourite Christian artists, ever. Ever since I listened to his music and wrote about his impact and influence on music as a whole, in my blog I wrote last year, I have since been amazed about his great ability to be a storyteller through song, and how a lot of his melodies hit deep into the human psyche and really challenge our own perceptions and understandings of what we believe the Christian life should be. Andrew’s heartfelt music has always been a refreshing way to see music presented through the lens of a Christian artist, and still make music in a way that a lot people can be impacted and influenced, even if your first-genre listen wouldn’t be that of the folk/acoustic/story-through-song variety. Nevertheless, Andrew’s music has always been likened to that of the late great Rich Mullins, and while I for one haven’t heard much of Rich’s music to know what his is like, I do know his impact and influence in the Christian community- with songs like ‘Creed’, ‘If I Stand’, ‘Sometimes By Step’ and ‘Awesome God’ being just some of the many songs Rich wrote and recorded before his untimely death in 1997. And so for someone like Andrew Peterson and his music, to be likened to Rich Mullins, is a very, big deal. For through the reviews of Andrew’s work, The Burning Edge of Dawn, Light For the Lost Boy and more recently Resurrection Letters; as well as my blog post I wrote about him in April 2019; I’ve expressed my own deep appreciation and admiration for Andrew and his music.
Since starting his career in the 1990s, till now; Andrew’s music has been steadily impacting listeners, but not necessarily at a pace that shouts ‘popular’. Because looking at Andrew’s career, and the accolades he received (or even didn’t receive), he wasn’t really much of an artist that garnered lots of hits or even radio play. And maybe, that just means that Andrew himself is hardly concerned with the current trends and more concerned with what is needed to be said, not only to society, but on a personal level to whomever hears it. It was and still is a pity that I didn’t discover Andrew’s work as soon as he started creating music (I only recently gotten into listening to Andrew’s work in the last year or so- 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. On the same level playing field as other lyrically genius artists like Rich Mullins, Keith Green, Bebo Norman, Jason Gray and the ever reliable and emotive Brooke Fraser and Nichole Nordeman; we are indeed witnessing a level of songwriting that is on the level of theologically rich, but also personal and relatable as we see Andrew take the avenue of delving into personal stories to bring themes and messages across to listeners.
Andrew unveiled to us a new Christmas album in 2019…well, actually, it isn’t really a new Christmas album. Behold The Lamb of God was unveiled by Andrew, of virtually all-original material (except for O Come, O Come Emmanuel) way back in 2004. Though basically an album of unknowns- with no carols whatsoever, this offering by arguably one of CCM’s most underrated and lyrically proficient, is an album full of hope, encouragement, and for me personally, one of the most iconic Christmas albums in modern CCM history. I even did a min-album review of it in August 2020 (see the link here), and while I won’t really expound much on Behold the Lamb of God– because in essence, this album is in fact 15 years old- and we have album reviews aplenty on the internet about this album, what I will say is this- this 2019 reimagining of the whole Christmas album recorded by Andrew, is something so unique and powerful, that it ushers in a new generation of fans of Andrew’s music, people that have yet to discover the lyrical prowess of which Andrew is. His ability to craft some of the most interesting Christmas songs ever, is quite possibly only ever challenged in the space of CCM, by fellow Centricity Music artist Jason Gray, and his very own Christmas album in 2012 titled Christmas Stories: Repeat The Sounding Joy. Andrew’s songs of joy; hope and enthusiasm for the Christmas season, ought to be explored at least once by anyone who loves Christmas music, Andrew Peterson music, or even both. For Behold the Lamb of God is by no means an album that you can listen to in the background. It needs to be an album digested in parts, listened to again and again, for the message to sink into people as lyrical depth is portrayed in virtually every single song present here on the album- the lone Christmas carol here on the album is actually an instrumental track! Behold the Lamb of God is one such album that can actually remind us all that people indeed are craving a new song for the Christmastime- yes, the carols and holiday songs are good, but every once in a while, you get an album full of originals (or an album with a few originals amongst the carols) that really sparks your interest, as you see yet another side to someone’s interpretation on one of the most celebrated days in the Christian calendar, and just a day where people celebrate full-stop, regardless of religion, or lack thereof. Andrew’s respect as a storyteller and an artist that creates music a la Rich Mullins, is what sparked me to listen to Behold the Lamb of God– and to write my mini-review. And so for me here writing this review of sorts on the 2019 reimagining of the 2004 album…well let’s just say that there’s not much more to be said, than what other sites like JesusFreakHideout, Jubilee Cast or ONEMANINTHEMIDDLE have said about the album already. This review in and of itself may seem redundant, and it probably is. But what I will say is this- that Andrew has a unique way of delivering Scripture that is digestible and interesting to follow through music, which has made me continue to listen to more of his music, and be reminded of how God can use someone akin to a poet, to present music and the gospel in a way that will attract people of varying walks of life, myself included.
Sometimes there’s a sense of awe and wonder when you’re discovering a music artist for the very first time. You get excited by the emotion that comes with enjoying music from an artist that is every bit emotive, poignant, heartfelt and encouraging and you wonder ‘why am I listening to this artist now when I could’ve done so before?’ This is what I’m sure people can experience when they hear Andrew’s music for the first time, or maybe even hearing this album for the first time. I’ve always known that Andrew himself is a great singer and songwriter, but for me, it’s taken the better half of this last year and a half (ever since I wrote about his music in my blog post) for me to even appreciate and fully understand how emotive and intricately delicate his songwriting really is. His words and the ability to phrase sentences through song that speak about feelings and emotions that I’m sure everyone has, but too afraid to voice; is nothing short of a gift that God gives. It’s just that He’s given such a gift like that, to Andrew, and not to myself. And therein lies my point- everyone has a gift to bring to the table, and Andrew’s is the ability to tell stories through the avenue of song. Unique and emotive, this Christian singer-songwriter who constantly travels the road of acoustic, folk and country (all with the lens of exploring some of the harder aspects of Christian life), is one such artist that I’m sure will change the global landscape of what it truly means for us to enjoy and call Christian music our favourite ‘genre’ of music. There are artists that pass us by, and there are others where we just have to take notice, in whatever way we may see to happen. Andrew Peterson is one of these artists.
With only one Christmas carol, and no holiday tunes, one can find this album a difficult one to get through, because of the low sense of familiarity. Nevertheless, the atmosphere of it being a tranquil and poignant Christmas/worship album is very, very strong, and once someone gets over the idea that this album is an all-original (except for one) album, then they can enjoy the album for what it is all the more- one of CCM history’s most prolific and powerful works of song anyone has heard in years upon years. For this is a very, very unique album. So much so, that this 2004 album was re-recorded in its entirety and unveiled to us again in 2019. While the 2019 version and the 2004 original recordings aren’t that much different, the very concept of re-recording a 15 year album, speaks volumes to that 2004 album- it’s that good to be re-recorded again, and unveiled and hopefully geared towards a new generation of people. And as of my own recollection in relation to other Christmas albums in recent CCM memory, Behold The Lamb of God (both the 2004 and the 2019 albums) is by far one of the most Jesus-explicit Christmas albums I’ve heard, and I’m certainly all the more for it. Andrew’s transparency and willingness to deliver an album that showcases the Christmas story as we all know it, but in a way that delves deeper into people’s feelings, is something unique. Though there’s no ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ or ‘O Holy Night’, the song ‘Labour of Love’ has become some sort of a Christmas anthem over the years. By and large, and all in all; Andrew’s released a gem of an album, that can also be listened to and enjoyed, even outside of the December Christmas season. If you’re a fan of Andrew’s body of work, this is a must-have. If you’re a fan of music with deep introspection, then this album is also for you. Basically if you’re a fan of music, period, then Behold the Lamb of God ought to be on your Christmas playlists, now, and always in the future. Sure, it may take a few listens to really understand the deep introspection present not only in this Christmas album but in every other Andrew Peterson album ever, but this collection of 12 songs are some of the most emotional I’ve heard in quite a while. Do yourself a favour and get this album pronto, in whatever way you can. Being introduced to Andrew and his music may just be the highlight of 2020 thus far.
‘…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 re-recording of a classic 2004 favourite, and his follow-up to his 2018 album Resurrection Letters (Prologue & Vol. 1) 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! Kudos to Andrew for Behold the Lamb of God, can’t wait for the next new offering of all-new material, whenever that may arise!
3 songs to listen to: Labor of Love, Deliver Us, Behold the Lamb of God
RIYL: Jason Gray, Bebo Norman, Rich Mullins, Keith Green, The Gray Havens, Audrey Assad, Jon Foreman