A Letter to Andrew Peterson

A bit of background might be in order. For years, since i first heard his music on a CD titled “Carried Along,” Andrew Peterson has been one of my favorite songwriters. If you don’t know his work, you’ll thank me for this introduction. He is, simply said, a master at his craft. He composes, sings, performs, writes books and is a gifted visual artist. Best of all, he is a big hearted soul with a winsome and expressive affection for his family and his friends. Last weekend, on the 14th, he and i played a gathering in Louisville, Kentucky and then, on Sunday, drove to Port Royal, Kentucky with friend, Ben May. There we spent two delightful hours with Wendell Berry, an author who is a favorite to the three of us, and his wife Tanya. More about that perhaps in a future blog. For now, i’m sharing a letter that i wrote to Andrew about his newest (and i think finest) CD, “Counting Stars.” Get a copy and thank me when you see me. …

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dear Andrew,

For the past year or so, i have attempted, in some shape or fashion, to “practice the Sabbath.” Prodded by scripture, and my own growing sense that 7 days of work violates something essential in the way God designed us, i’m using Sundays (when i’m home) to do something that might vaguely be described as rest. It’s not been easy, given that my mind and body, through years of poor usage, have adapted to a velocity that resists all efforts to slow down. But i’m getting better and better at it and i more and more look forward to that unencumbered afternoon each week. … Which brings me to my reason for writing.
Yesterday, i downloaded “Counting Stars”, fought the temptation to listen to it immediately, and woke up this morning very much looking forward to a time of undivided attention to your new project . i’ve just finished my first hearing of it and am taking this break, before listening to it again, to write a note of congratulations and thanks for what, to me, is the best thing you’ve ever done musically. To use Ben’s metaphor, the color of the room is as close to perfect as i think you’ll ever get. On every level – lyric, melody, arrangements – they are strong, strong, strong songs, honest, hopeful, nuanced but plain-spoken, the kind of songs that make one want to listen closely, and i hope many will. i’ll have to hear them a number of times –easy work – before i land on my very favorite, but Magic Hour, Isle of Skye (a place i visited often when i lived in Scotland), World Traveler, Planting Trees, Fool with a Fancy Guitar, and Many Roads are the ones that caught me most first time through. Thank you for the hard work that must have gone into the project, for your commitment to do things with excellence, for “putting every word on trial for its life,” and for keeping Jesus – by reference or in spirit – so obviously in the middle of them all.
i can only wish that the masses would hear your songs. Perhaps someday they will. In the meantime, won’t you take some consolation from the knowledge that those of us who listen do so intently and come away changed by the vision that God has given you?
i do confess that my envy, the one i confessed to you before about the rich community that y’all have there in Nashville, rose its head as i listened to the contributions that Ben and Andy made to the tunes. i’d gladly be y’all’s roadie sometime.
Well, what a feast you have given us. i just had to say thanks and thanks and thanks.
Counting the days till our visit with Mr. Wendell and wonder if i’m more excited about that or about playing in Louisville with you the night before. Both are riches to look forward to.
i’ll see you soon.

With thanks for a magic hour,

allen

(footnote re: picture at top: L to R, acl, Wendell Berry, Ben May, Andrew Peterson)