Lost and Found
Posted August 14, 2012
Veteran songwriter Andrew Peterson began Light for the Lost Boy with the intention of writing a set of songs for his children. As the songs developed, it became clear that the intended audience was much broader. For spiritually we are all children, filled with a yearning for what's been lost.
The album opens in melancholic fashion with "Come Back Soon," which begins with a recollection of the Tennessee flood and continues with images of loneliness, loss, and death. It touches on Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' classic novel, The Yearling, the bitterness of nature, the cycle of life and death in the seasons, and the darkness that pervades our world. Humanity "wake[s] in the night," calling for deliverance, asking Jesus to "come back soon."
"The Cornerstone" opens with Peterson's voice layered at two different pitches. Bright piano, resonant bass, and gritty guitars perfectly capture the mystery and might of our Savior on this powerful song brimming with biblical references. My favorite lines: "You've been a mystery since the moment that I met You / You never move but I can never seem to catch You."
Next up is "Rest Easy," the first radio single. A reminder of the promise of the gospel, its serene melody provides a respite from the storminess and weight that inhabits the record. The soothing continues with "The Voice of Jesus," a calming lullaby for all God's lost children, and perhaps the most tender recorded moment I've heard all year.
Named after the protagonist of The Yearling, "The Ballad of Jody Baxter" likens the loss of innocence to the expulsion from Eden: "I mourned cause the field was green as Eden / then it withered into brown / In the middle of my grieving, well they came and cut it down... / The day they mowed the garden to the ground."
"Day by Day" was inspired by a trip to Kensington Gardens, a setting made famous by author J. M. Barrie. Peter Pan imagery is woven throughout (a continuation of the Lost Boy reference in the album's title), but I especially like Peterson's appropriation and metaphysical adaptation of a Barrie metaphor: "We just can't get used to being here / where the ticking clock is loud and clear / Children of Eternity / On the run from entropy." Peterson entreats: "Don't lose heart though your body's wasting away / Your soul is not--it's being remade / Day by day."
"Shine Your Light on Me" requests help from Jesus while giving thanks for past instances of received guidance and assistance during moments of darkness. Instrumentally, the music echoes the heartache expressed in the lyrics, with a guitar that seems to howl and moan against the larger soundscape that feels dark, lonely, and, at times, dangerous. Peterson's poetic lyrics are simultaneously at their most haunting and beautiful as he brings to light stark scenes: "Two years I drove into a darkness / I straightened every curve on King Ridge Road / I could hear the flapping wings of every devil I have known."
A rhythmically stirring number, "Carry the Fire" points to our promised hope and assurance in Christ: "And we dream in the night of a feast and a wedding / And the Groom in His glory when the Bride is made ready."
"You'll Find Your Way" sounds at once like a song for a growing son as well as a lyrical depiction of the journey each of us takes from childhood through adolescence into adulthood. "I wanna go with you, but I can't follow," Peterson sings. "So keep to the old roads / keep to the old roads and you'll find your way."
Light for the Lost Boy closes with the epic "Don't You Want to Thank Someone." The song is an atmospheric reflection on the beauty that abounds in nature and the fact that, though much is wrong with the world, we have much to be thankful for. This begs the question, "Don't you want to thank someone for this?" This ten minute piece brings the album full-circle, but rather than the melancholy of the first track, here Peterson makes peace with the longing as he considers the promised Kingdom yet to come and concludes: "Maybe it's a better thing... to be more than merely innocent / Oh, but to be broken then redeemed by love."
Grand in scope, this closing track leaves the listener not sorrowed by but thankful for his aching heart, and sustained by the promise of an eternity to come. Hallelujah!
Thematically, Light for the Lost Boy is about childhood, our life's journey as we walk out of innocence into experience, and the duality contained therein – joy and pain, loneliness and love, darkness and light – as we strive to recapture what we've lost along the way. The songwriting is superb. Don't be surprised if you find a treasured lyric not just in one song, but at least once in every song! This isn't an album to be gobbled up. It's one you'll need to chew on a while. Lyrically deep, you'll discover nuances and meaning with each listen.
Musically, Peterson gets a fuller backing than ever before. However, the arrangements, as well as the production, never hinder the delivery of the lyrics. Instead, the music breathes and sighs, aches and groans, and hopes and smiles in just the right places. As you listen, you'll feel you've stepped into another place for a time, and you'll come away from your journey having had heart, mind, and soul engaged. What more could one ask for?
If you are unfamiliar with Andrew Peterson but enjoy the depth and poetry of songwriters like Rich Mullins, give this album a listen!
Song to Download:
"The Voice of Jesus"
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