Brings Refreshing Beauty to Christian Music
Before I talk about Peter Woolston’s new five-song EP “Hope On My Horizon,” let me explain my comment above. I first discovered Kiwi songwriters when I bought “Everyone Is Here” by Finn Brothers in 2005, composed of brothers Neil Finn and Tim Finn, the duo behind Crowded House (i.e. the band that did the huge hit “The Dream Is Over” and who, in recent years, reunited to record the masterpiece album “Intriguer”). The Finn brothers’ music is timeless, and their songwriting is exquisite. I could go on about music from that general area of the world (i.e. the talented Christian singer Nathan Tasker from Australia, whom I reviewed recently), but let me get to the point.
I enjoyed Peter Woolston’s EP as much as I’ve enjoyed the legendary Neil and Tim Finn. And if the music isn’t awesome enough, Peter is also involved with an incredible ministry called Mercy Ships: “Since 1978, Mercy Ships has performed more than one billion dollars’ worth of life-changing medical services on hundreds of thousands of the world’s poorest people – all for free.” (And Peter is donating 50% of his sales from the album’s title track to Mercy Ships.)
Other critics have noted that it is guitar-driven, melodic rock. Yes, I would agree with them to an extent (though there are some great piano-driven rock moments too), but even more than that it is true songwriting-based rock music. That kind of trait is more rare. You could take Peter’s songs, remove all the production and instruments, and record the songs on an old tape recorder as he sings and strums them on a dusty guitar, and they would still carry impressive emotional power. That’s the beauty of original, carefully crafted songwriting, and that’s exactly what Woolston accomplishes, especially with songs like “Hope On My Horizon.”
The album glides nimbly through its chord progressions, lyrical themes, and melodic developments with the agility of a songwriter who has spent some serious time studying his craft. (And it’s no surprise to learn that Peter earned a Certificate of Songwriting at the legendary Berklee College of Music in Boston, which has produced world-class songwriters and artists for decades.)
Also, the melodic shapes are (thank the Lord) NOT noodly, which I have found to be a problem in Christian songwriting in recent years. (And I’m saying this from an educated stand-point, I promise — not just making this up — I earned my degree in music composition in college.) Noodly songwriting happens when your melody fumbles around the same cluster of closely related notes without ever (or rarely) arching up into a notable high point or sinking down to a contrasting lower range. There’s no distinctive shape, in other words. It’s like looking at a bunch of easily forgettable rolling hills rather than looking up in awe at a huge mountain peak that has a distinctive, towering shape.
The track “Hope On My Horizon” is my favorite track, not only on the EP, but it’s one of my favorite songs of 2015 of any genre (Christian or secular). A line in the lyrics say: “Things get better, only as you climb.” And with such earnest declarations, the song paints a wide-eyed vision of persuasive hope — the kind of hope that sounds and feels real, sincere, and contagious as you listen. I walked away feeling better about, well, everything. The chorus is wonderfully catchy with its harmonies, and its bridge is one of the best written bridges I’ve heard this year: it contrasts the rich harmonies of the chorus with a glorious octave-pairing between Peter’s voice and a female singer. It adds a powerful exclamation mark to a powerful song.
Lyrically, the songs take a stand for Christ. (And, good grief, how badly we need that.) “Dead Man Walking” and “I Believe In You” (which really gets you pumped up in the chorus) provide a much-need B12 shot to the spiritual backbone. And songs like “Obsession” and “Better Man Someday” stir an immediate longing to grow nearer to Christ every moment of every day — to cast off the snares of this world that so easily ensnare us.
And it’s the little things that make an album for me. I love the muted bass strikes in “Better Man Someday” followed by another golden chorus hook (one of the best rock hooks of 2015, I’m serious — the melodic writing is that good on this album), and Peter’s aggressive singing on “Better Man” and “I Believe In You” is superb. He has a legit rocker’s voice, not just a gentle songwriter’s voice.
And then there’s “Obsession.” From a guitarist’s perspective: I absolutely love the guitar tones and production on this song — lush chorus layers, beautiful palm-muted arpeggios, driving bass beneath it all — and the songwriting moves it all along with perfect pacing. And you can hear layers of influences, from multiple decades of rock genres, weaving together. This is quality stuff.
What a great EP. Nice job, Peter. We’re looking forward to what’s next.
The following is Peter’s latest press release, which has more details about his career and the amazing ministry of Ministry Ships.
Kiwi musician Peter Woolston is finally quenching his fans’ curiosity, with the release of I Believe In You, the first track from his new album Hope On My Horizon.
Drawing comparisons to artists like Jon Foreman, Bono and Martin Smith, Hope On My Horizon counts its blessings and sees the glass as half full rather than half empty. I Believe In You gives fans a taste of what’s to come with its memorable hooks and infectious melodies.
But it’s what he’s doing with his music that makes Woolston different from most Kiwi musicians.
After stepping aboard as Mercy Ships NZ Musical Ambassador in 2014, Woolston is ‘rocking the boat’ by donating 50% of all sales of the title track from his new album Hope On My Horizon, due for release first thing next month, to the floating hospital that has changed thousands of lives for the better.
Since 1978, Mercy Ships has performed more than one billion dollars’ worth of life-changing medical services on hundreds of thousands of the world’s poorest people – all for free. Mercy Ships is powered by voluntary medical professionals from more than 40 nations all over the world, including New Zealand. The crew pay their way and perform vital – often lif
e-saving – medical services including cleft lip and palate corrections, cataract removals, straightening of crossed eyes, and orthopaedic and facial reconstruction, all at no charge to the patient.
Woolston knows that making a real difference to people’s lives doesn’t come cheap, which is why he’s donating much of his work.
“When I first found out about Mercy Ships, I was blown away by the selflessness of the medical staff who give up so much of their own time, money and energy to providing life-changing help to the people of Africa,” says Woolston.
“Then it got me thinking. What could I give that could make a difference too?
“Everyone has a skill that they can donate to worthy organisations like Mercy Ships. Mine just happens to be music.”
Hope On My Horizon was recorded in Sydney and is due for release in July 2015, along with its title track. Each song draws on Woolston’s knack for deep-thinking, and is consistently introspective and serious-minded – and memorable.
Influenced by bands like U2, Switchfoot, The Police and Larry Noman, Woolston’s music-making has taken him all over the world, including far-flung nations like China, Romania, Bulgaria and Russia.
About Mercy Ships
Since 1978, Mercy Ships has performed more than $1 billion worth of free medical services, directly impacting more than 2.35 million of the world’s poorest people. Mercy Ships providing surgeries, dental work, well drilling, and other capacity building services free of charge to the most destitute in West Africa’s most impoverished nations, and all volunteers pay their own way. Mercy Ships has 16 national offices worldwide, including one in Auckland. More information at www.mercyships.org.nz
Mercy Ships have:
· Performed 74,400+ life-changing operations such as cleft lip and palate, cataract removal, straightening of crossed eyes, orthopaedic and facial reconstruction. All operations are free to patients.
· Treated over 608,200+ patients in village medical and dental clinics and educated about 5,850 local health care workers, who have in turn trained multiple thousands in primary health care.
· Trained over 34,500 local professionals in their areas of expertise, including anaesthesiology, midwifery, instrument sterilisation, orthopaedic and reconstructive surgery, and leadership.
· Completed over 1,100 community development projects focusing on water and sanitation, education, infrastructure development and agriculture.
About Peter Woolston
Peter Woolston has loved music since he was about 10 years old. Originally from Wellington but now based in Auckland with his family, Woolston has performed all over New Zealand and throughout the world, including the US, China, Bulgaria, Romania and Russia. Influenced by bands like U2, Switchfoot, The Police and Larry Norman, Woolston has studied under teachers like Pat Pattison and Jason Blume, completed a Certificate in Songwriting at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, and produced distinctive melodic and guitar-powered alternative rock.
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