Andrew Peterson’s 11th studio release is yet another solid record – a lush and reverent celebration of the work that God is still doing.
The Burning Edge of Dawn
Artist: Andrew Peterson
Time: 10 tracks / 39:00 minutes
It would be cheap to describe Andrew Peterson’s newest offering as a piece about man’s suffering, because virtually every piece of art is related in some way to this plight. And yet, this is an album about suffering. It is a record devoted to the trials of life and the pruning that the Vinedresser still has to do in all of our lives. However, Burning Edge of Dawn does not focus on the morose or the pain. Instead, it celebrates the almost – the becoming, the not-quite-yet.
Releasing 9 October, this album will be Andrew’s 11th studio release, yet another joint venture with Gabe Scott (this proficient musical duo have now been writing music together for nearly twenty years). What is unique about BEOD, however, is that it is the first Peterson album to truly begin life in the studio. Typically, Andrew has gone into recording sessions with a pocketful of songs ready to be laid down as tracks and a dedicated vision for the album as a whole. BEOD is his first musical “walking on the water” experience, especially following the monumental success of his previous album, Light for the Lost Boy, which garnered two 2013 Dove Award nominations.
In this regard, Andrew describes the experience of writing BEOD as something akin to an intimate, spontaneous autobiography. Working with a blank slate, he had “no choice but to write about exactly what was happening in [his] life” at the time. He goes on to say in the album’s press release that the end result is a little like “seeing the first glimmers of sunrise after what feels like a long, painful night,” and simply summarizes BEOD as a collection of “songs about joy.” Songs about the optimistic lifting of the head and the flutter of hope that yet springs eternal in the human breast. And yet, each track is filled with something more: the personal and unique work of the gospel in Andrew’s own life that finds echoes in that selfsame work in the lives of his listeners.
The heavy-hitting opening track, “The Dark Before the Dawn,” finds its source in the Apostle Paul’s description in Romans 8 of the “whole of creation groaning” for the coming of the Savior and the entrance of His eternal Kingdom. In and of itself, this lush piano ballad reveals that the joy Andrew hinted at is much deeper than merely overcoming the problems of life. The entirety of the album works collectively to make this point.
Highlight tracks for me are “We Will Survive” – a ballad with a spotlight on the hammer dulcimer and a focus on keeping the gospel fresh in the midst of trials – and “My One Safe Place,” a tender song about the unique relationship Andrew shares with his wife, Jamie, reaffirming their God-centered, dedicated partnership. “Be Kind to Yourself” is a tune dedicated to his daughter, Skye: a piece about overcoming the tendency to be our own worst critics.
“The Power of a Great Affection” and “The Sower’s Song,” the lattermost tracks on the album, form a definitive conclusion to BEOD, and structurally unite the album’s theme. “Great Affection” is strings-based and dynamically steady; “Sower’s Song” is piano-based and tenuous, ebbing and flowing in dynamics and instrumentation as the composition reaches its powerful, Isaiah-55-based climax. A song about pruning and harvesting, this tune – like all the others – points beyond the “thorn now” to the eternal joy Christ’s return will one day usher in.
From a production standpoint, BEOD is on par with all of Andrew’s releases: well-mixed, well-written, well-orchestrated. There is, however, somewhat of an emphasis on BEOD’s production that makes it feel at times over-processed – that is, somewhat less organic than some of Andrew’s earlier material. However, the stylistic wordplay, candor, and musicianship common to all AP albums remains present, marking this release as yet another high-quality project. For BEOD, Andrew has simply done what he always has: write deep, meaningful, and memorable songs about God’s goodness.
I listened to this album for an exceptionally long while before sitting down to write about it. It’s powerful stuff to reflect on God’s provision and promises. We get glimpses on this side of heaven, balm for the minor cuts and bruises, but it won’t be until the moment we step into the arms of our Savior that we will fully know peace and healing. This is not simply an album about enduring hard times, though one could certainly draw that conclusion; this is an album about breathlessly anticipating the hope of glory. For that reason, it is supremely up-lifting.