One of the things about being pretty average at school was that there was always someone better than you at just about everything – the academic, the arts and sport.
Then, of course, there were the very few who were just stunningly good at everything: they represented the school at every sport, would inevitably be a prefect, looked stylish even in a bin bag and could play six instruments, probably all at the same time!
I have no idea what Andrew Peterson was like at school, but having listened to Resurrection Letters, Volume II I could hazard a guess. At the same time as producing this breathtaking album, he’s written a children’s book and a novel, planned another book and another album, worked on the VeggieTales DVDs and moved his family of five to Nashville. He’s probably good looking too.
The idea for Resurrection Letters, Volume II came to Peterson unexpectedly last Holy Week while writing a series of meditations for his website. One of his online readers called those writings “resurrection letters”, and a light went on. “I knew I wanted that to be the title of the album, but I didn’t know why,” says Peterson. “Then I saw that the songs I was writing were mostly connected by that theme.”
The songs flowed in the days and weeks to follow, lyrics mostly about death and rebirth, about the way that picture pervades all of creation.
There is a real depth of honesty in his songs that disarms you. In Hosanna he sings about being “tangled up in contradictions”; how we battle to live holy lives while often being our own worst enemy.
While the Christian faith speaks of a Saviour who has beaten death at death’s own game we are so often struggling to live faithfully.
Some people obviously have the impression that Christian performers are perfect and Peterson picks up that sort of conversation at the start of I’ve got news – so you think I’m something special/like I know a thing or two/like my eyes don’t ever wander/like my aim is always true/so you think I’m not a dirty rotten scoundrel through and through/lady I’ve got news for you.
The song recalls other people who think they are unique – that no one else cries themselves to sleep or who feel so wrecked and dirty that God couldn’t make their heart new – and then offer Good News.
In another song he tells the Bible story of Hosea through the eyes of his prostitute wife who kept running away and being brought back home in that Old Testament picture of godly love and rescue.
Andrew Peterson has a long-term link up with producers Ben Shive and Andy Gullahorn and they share the credits on four of the 11 tracks but Peterson has a great feel for lyrics and some of the most powerful are the ones he writes himself.
The stand-out track for me is Rocket which could be dropped intact onto a Paul Simon album and sound absolutely at home. He takes the picture of a rocket launch and reminds us that gravity may bind us but glory defines us and love alone will ultimately carry us.
Resurrection Letters, Volume II is Peterson’s 10th album – the 11th will be Resurrection Letters, Volume 1. No, I don’t know either; perhaps maths is the only things he can’t get right. Everything else is just about perfect.