May 24, 2003

Religious reviews

Compiled by The Dallas Morning News

Reviewer’s Choice

Love & Thunder

Andrew Peterson

(Essential/Watershed, 41 minutes)

He’s a native of Florida, and the son of a Christian minister. He’s also one of the evangelical music industry’s best all-around musicians. He doesn’t settle for trite, fa-la-la, Jesus lyrics. Rather, his words are poetic musings that ring with honesty, depth and sincerity. Consider Silence of God, a reality of faith that few musicians tackle: “It’ll shake a man’s timbers when he loses his heart. When he has to remember what broke him apart. This yoke may be easy, but this burden is not. When the crying fields are frozen by the silence of God.”

Peterson combines spiritually mature lyrics with sophisticated instrumental craftsmanship. He understands the allure of understatement and draws listeners in with the beauty of his stark piano melodies and gentle strings. His slow, reflective folk style flirts with bluegrass layered with mandolin, banjo, fiddle or hammered dulcimer as a backdrop. Famed bluegrass musician Alison Krauss is one of many top talents featured.

At heart, Peterson is a poised storyteller with a cracking vocal style that falls between Fernando Ortega and Rich Mullins, or, in secular circles, James Taylor and Cat Stevens. His wife, Jamie, provides many of the sensational harmonies that make this music memorable. It’s so captivating that you will want to stop whatever you’re doing and just listen.

Family Man draws on Peterson’s unexpected but welcomed role as the father of three young children. He writes: “I am a family man. I traded in my Mustang for a minivan. This is not what I was headed for when I began. This was not my plan. I am a family man.”

CDs

WOW Worship: Yellow

33 different artists

(Provident Music Group, EMI Christian Music Group, Word Entertainment, 148 minutes)

Yellow is the latest release in the popular WOW Worship series, a double-CD compilation of 33 songs by some of today’s best-known Christian artists. Although the album is actually two CDs, only one seems to be worthwhile, with an exception or two. For the first time, Provident Music Group tried to simultaneously appeal to fans of both contemporary and praise and worship music. Memo to Provident: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Things are great on disc 1, beginning with Michael W. Smith’s always-moving Awesome God. The praise continues with Amy Grant’s Imagine, followed by Majesty by Caedmon’s Call, right on to Nicole C. Mullen’s Redeemer. Things don’t flow as well on disc 2, although GlassByrd’s I Stand Amazed — one of three bonus tracks on the project — stands out, as does Be Thou My Vision by steady Jars of Clay.

Access:D

delirious?

(Furious? Records, 116 minutes)

Live recordings of delirious? have been in precious short supply for American fans — some concert highlights in Live & in the Can and the UK-only d:tour 1997 Live — but Access:D rectifies that in a big way.

With 26 songs, pulled from concert venues from around the world, packed into two CDs totaling almost two hours, Access:D showcases delirious? at its best.

You might think of Access:D as a greatest hits package, because just about all the big ones are here — Deeper, History Maker, I Could Sing of Your Love Forever, Happy Song. But delirious? isn’t shy about tweaking the old favorites. The band rips through Happy Song at twice the normal pace, and Martin Smith does a goodly chunk of I Could Sing in Spanish.

Sure, at 116 minutes, there is some filler. But for live, rocking worship, Access:D is hard to beat.

Books

The Feminine Face of Buddhism

Gill Farrer-Halls

(Quest Books, 128 pages, $19.95)

This beautifully illustrated book celebrates women’s contributions to Buddhism. It’s filled with well-written explanations of ancient teachings, interviews with the great teachers today, and tales of female deities. The book also broaches a sensitive issue for Buddhists, as it is for followers of other religions: Discrimination against women. Some scholars have argued that Buddhism — especially the Tibetan variety — is intrinsically sexist. The author believes that isn’t the case, pointing out that the Buddha insisted that both sexes can reach enlightenment.

The author provides a history of Buddhism in a way seldom told. We learn about the Buddha’s mother and the legends that she effortlessly gave birth to her son while standing. “To the astonishment of all present, the newborn baby took seven steps in each of the four directions,” the author writes. Seven days later, his mother died. We also learn about the first Buddhist nun — the Buddha’s aunt — who persistently asked him to ordain women into his sangha — community of followers — and to create an order of nuns. There are many more delightful stories, all well told

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