Style: Gentle, coffee-house folk music; compare to James Taylor, early Caedmon's Call
Top tracks: "Dancing in the Minefield," "World Traveler"
For a split second, at the beginning of his new album Counting Stars, Andrew Peterson almost sounds like a bit of a narcissist. "Could it be that the many roads you took to get here / Were just for me to tell this story, and you to hear this song?" he wonders aloud. But no: Peterson doesn't think of himself as the center of the universe, nor does he think the divine hand of providence is interested only in drawing more fans his way. Actually, the song is the epitome of humility: Peterson doesn't fancy himself a pop star, but simply an instrument of God's grace, a mouthpiece of something True; or, as he puts it in the album's press materials, he hopes only to be used by God as an instrument.
That sounds about right. On Counting Stars, Peterson is just a humble folksinger, his music tasteful and elegant, and never flashy. His songs are all simple, observational tales from life, drawing on spiritual metaphors that teach basic Christian truths without ever seeming didactic. As always, he made the album with close friends, including members of Caedmon's Call and Christian folk luminaries like Derek Webb. ButStars has nothing of the Americana inflections or world-beat excursions of Caedmon's, nor the quasi-controversial writing of Webb's. This is folk music for the coffee-shop set: Stories and songs so quiet, they demand that you sit and actively listen.
Peterson is a soft-spoken singer and a gentle acoustic guitar strummer; he's also a writer who takes seriously the old adage to write about what you know, and as such his songs are explicitly autobiographical. But Counting Stars isn't marked by navel-gazing self-reckoning, as so much confessional folk music is; it's characterized, more than anything, by a spirit of contentment, Peterson singing about his life's two greatest callings—his family and his music—from the perspective of one who has been deeply blessed, whose amazement at God's endless grace is renewed daily. "Dancing in the Minefields" is a standout, a chronicle of Peterson's marriage to wife Jamie that views the institution as an adventure fraught with peril but also rich in joy. Marriage may be like "sailing in the storm," but the singer finds peace in the faithfulness of the Almighty, and in the daily lessons in self-denial that healthy marriage affords.
In the songs about touring and playing, Peterson acknowledges that sometimes his only reward is in encouraging others with the light of Christ—but what more could he ask for? He may never be a big star, but he doesn't seem to mind; on Counting Stars, he's counting his blessings a la Abraham. And he's inviting us to do the same.
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