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Love and Thunder
Artist: Andrew Peterson
Label: Watershed / Essential
Length: 10 Tracks (41 minutes 20 seconds)

"Sarah take me by my arm, tomorrow we are Canaan bound," starts Andrew Peterson's new album Love and Thunder.  On this particular offering, this isn't so much track one, as it is the first movement of a whole symphony. Andy along with producers Steve Hindalong and Derri Daugherry have crafted a most impressive feat in the area of cohesiveness.  It sounds like Peterson sat down in the studio and just started playing the whole album one song to the next.  Despite this impressive feat, the album fails from being great in an inconsistent quality of songship.  Adding up the songs I find particularly good at any given time usually I come up with around half.  This particular identification makes Love and Thunder a great album to put on to relax to, to sit and listen to the rain to, but not an every day cd.  Nevertheless, there are high moments of this project.

One of Love and Thunder's particular triumphs is the heavily folksy "Serve Hymn."   This song is cleverly and appropriately titled. The song contains lush acoustic instrumentation with particularly attractive mandolin, banjo, and fiddle pieces.  The song contains the poetic part:

Jesus, Our Messiah King
For those who don t deserve him
Conquered death all life to bring,
So seek his face and serve him
O Serve Him
This song also has some impressive background vocals from Jill Phillips and Matthew Perryman Jones.  The album then unfortunately transitions into a slightly weak procession of songs.  This ends with the triumphant "High Noon."  The album finds its moment of highest energy in the buildup of this magnificent piece.  In this song, Peterson's former band mate Gabe Scott returns to play a great hammered dulcimer offering.  The song sings of the triumphant defeat of Jesus over the forces of death.  Jill Phillips once again adds an immeasurable amount of force to the power of this song, helping give it the effect of inspiring goose bumps. 

The masterpiece has to be the closing number "After the Last Tear Falls."  The song runs off a number of lines repetitively conveying different lasts in the sequence which a part of it is contained in the verse: 

Cause after the last plan fails
After the last siren wails
After the last young husband sails off to join the war
After the last this marriage is over 
After the last young girl's innocence is stolen,
After the last years of silence that won't let a heart open,
There is Love, 
Love, Love, Love
The song declares the true power that no matter what befalls us, the powerful love of Christ will always remain.  The song ends with the line "After the Last Tear falls," and has a beautiful transition back to the opening piano riff of the album, which appropriately brings a tear to my eye like Andrew Peterson can do like no other.  Unfortunately this power is not consistent throughout this cohesive, yet inconsistent, offering. 

Peterson proves at several point in Love and Thunder that he still has some of the amazing songwriting ability which he has always had, but not as great as we have seen it.  If you are a big fan of peterson's music, this album is one which would be great to have.  If you don't know him, Carried Along is one of the greatest albums of all time, and a much more solid and convincing collection than found here. 

Matt Kilgore 3/30/2003

Andrew Peterson has made no bones about the fact that he was inspired by Rich Mullins in his musical career.  This has produced a tendency for a hammered dulcimer to show up on his recordings, lyrics about nature, and Biblically-based observations about life, sometimes in an off-kilter way.  

Love & Thunder is no different in that regard.  But one thing should be noted: If you are going to emulate someone in Christian music, it would be difficult to choose better than Rich Mullins.  This album is superior to Peterson's previous works and shows a developing maturity as a writer. 

"Canaan Bound" leads off, sung from the viewpoint of Abraham leading his family in the direction of God's promise.  The backup vocals here are donated by the always wonderful Allison Krauss.  "Family Man," which owes a debt to a Ragamuffin Band musically, concerns itself with losing your own desires in order to replace them with something better:

 I am a family man
 I traded in my Mustang for a mini-van
 That is not what I was headed for when I began
 This was not my plan
 I am a family man...
"Tools," with Randall Goodgame on backup, is a tribute to Peterson's late grandfather, and draws the metaphor between a workman's tools and those of the Christian faith.  "Serve Hymn" works as a song, and as a worship tune, very much in the style of Michael Card.  "Let There Be Light" is a celebration of music, and the power it contains, name-checking Bill Monroe and Chet Atkins along the way.  "After The Last Tear Falls" lyrically and musically resembles "Bound to Come Some Trouble" (Rich Mullins again).  "High Noon" features the aforementioned dulcimer, and "Just As I Am" thanks Christ for His love despite our
failings (it's not the old hymn). 

Love & Thunder is by far my favorite Peterson recording thus far.  His songwriting has depth to it, and the musicians here (Chris Donahue,  Steve Hindalong, Derri Daugherty, Matthew Perryman Jones, Ben Shive, Phil Madeira, Andrew Osenga, among others) create an earthy, relaxed tone that is very easy to listen to.  Now, if Peterson's voice was just a little better...

Brian A. Smith 21 April 2003


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