I feel entirely unqualified to write this introduction. Andrew Peterson has been on the scene for over 25 years and while many of his fans have been along for the entire ride, I came to Peterson’s music much later, some ten years ago. Due to the comparative brevity of my love for his music, I do not possess decades of stories, memories, and connections to his songs. I am a relative novice to Andrew Peterson and his music so I will write of that which I know to be true.
It has been said before, but it rings too true to not repeat it: I believe Andrew Peterson is the musical successor to Rich Mullins. To put a finer point to this, I mean this in an Elijah/Elisha sense. Rich Mullins was the greatest songwriter in Chrisitan music. I don’t think this statement will face much resistance. His lyrical depth and honesty were a gift to all of us. His mantle and that gift quite clearly landed on Andrew Peterson’s heart and pen.
I call it a gift because I firmly believe Peterson was blessed by his Creator with these talents. I also believe that he has been faithful in multiplying his gifts with dedicated and disciplined labor, honing his skills in a sacred act of worship for his Lord and Savior.
Andrew Peterson’s songs are intimately personal, yet accessible to anyone. He plumbs the depths of the human experience, writing of things we all know and feel yet struggle to meaningfully articulate. There are no throw away lines. No filler phrases or cliches. Every word is loaded with meaning and purpose; every rhyme fashioned for maximum impact. In his gifted hands, he makes the sacred approachable and reveals the ordinary to be awe-inspiring and the very substance of life.
Andrew Peterson’s music is an invitation to truly listen and then live. A heartfelt call to take our place with the rest of creation and worship the giver all of good gifts. (Phill Lytle)
As is always the case, we make no claim that this is the definitive list. We are sure every Andrew Peterson fan has their own list, still, we are very proud of ours. And while you might be tempted to just quickly scan the list to see if your favorites made the cut, we hope you will spend some time reading the commentary for these amazing songs. Andrew pours his heart and soul into his songs, we felt we could offer nothing less.
A few notes before we get into the countdown.
1. We are using 1998 as the beginning of Peterson’s career. Which makes 2023 his 25th anniversary and the inspiration behind this top 25 songs list. Technically he started playing some live shows a couple years before 1998 and did not record his first full length album until a year or two after, but ‘98 was a pivotal point in Peterson’s career. He was given the opportunity to open for Caedmon’s Call on their U.S. tour. A few of the contributors to this article were fortunate enough to catch one of these live shows near Nashville, TN. The rest, as they say, is history.
2. We had nine people submit lists of their favorite Andrew Peterson songs. This is the most participation we have had for one of our top song countdown lists. Several of our Rambling Ever On regulars were voters, but we also had a few friends who have never written for our site give us their input as well. We feel like the additional voices made our list even stronger.
3. A total of 61 songs were submitted on the various lists. Points were assigned based on how high the songs were ranked and these points were totaled to come up with our final ranking. Peterson is a prolific songwriter who has recorded well over 100 songs in his career. Narrowing it down to 25 was not an easy task!
4. Every song on our final list received multiple votes, but only one song ended up on all nine voters’ lists. This song ended up being our number one song and if you keep reading you will find out which song it was!
5. Some of Peterson’s older songs were re-recorded for his “best of” album that released in 2014. We listed the original year of release throughout the article, but for the purposes of the Spotify playlist we included the version that we felt fit best with the flow of the playlist. Both original and re-recorded versions were used depending on the song. (You can find the Spotify playlist with our Top 25 songs at the end of this article. Don’t peak, though!)
6. I think that just about covers it. Hope you enjoy this list and our celebration of Andrew Peterson’s musical career.
25. Magic Hour (2010)
“The Magic Hour” is an astonishing reflection of the beauty of the world, as well as the personal experience one has by interacting with it. It’s not a direct praise song, but rather an invitation to join Peterson in his reflection. Like many of his other songs, Andrew Peterson is descriptive of creation, and his imagery is breathtaking. The song is filled with lyrics such as: “watch the sun sink away”, “warm your hands in the gold of the afterglow”, and “time and eternity mingle a moment in chorus”. These lyrics paint a beautiful picture in the listener’s mind of the magic that Peterson is writing about.
The complexities of his lyricism require careful contemplation. There isn’t a moment of doubt to any listener that this song is spiritual. Secular artists sing about the beauty of the world, but it’s clear Peterson’s words are much deeper. He states “plain is the beauty before us” emphasizing the association nature has with its Creator. He then asks, “could this beauty be for us?” in a manner that welcomes the listener to a spirit of thanksgiving. Matched perfectly with a beautiful piano composition that gently swells before each chorus, “The Magic Hour” is one of Peterson’s more underrated songs, and its beauty and invitation to reflect are powerful. (Aidan Lytle)
24. All Things Together (2018)
He holds all things (He made peace, He made peace) All things together (He made peace by the blood of His cross) He holds all things, all things (He made peace, He made peace) All things together (He made peace by the blood of His cross) He holds all things, all things (He made peace, He made peace) All things together (He made peace by the blood of His cross) He holds all things, all things (He made peace, He made peace) All things together (He made peace...)
23. All Things New (2008)
“All Things New” is a warm hug. I don’t mean that in a condescending or demeaning manner. Not in the least. Sometimes, often times, a warm hug is exactly what we need. Everything about this song is crafted to encourage. The melody, the instruments, and very way Peterson gently and patiently sings each word. Everyone is welcome at the table – the broken, the weary, the ashamed, the guilty, the sleeping. Jesus calls to each of us. All we need to do is to rise up and hold on to the promises.
If you have never been hugged by Andrew Peterson, consider yourself well and truly hugged now. (Phill Lytle)
22. The Chasing Song (2000)
My memory is hazy to be certain, but I think that this is the first Andrew Peterson song I ever heard. I wish I could remember where I was or how I ran across it, though I’m sure it had something to do with my already-established love for Jars of Clay, Caedmon’s Call, and Rich Mullins.
Vocally Peterson took some getting used to, but when his nasally delivery became less jarring over time it was his lyrics that stood head and shoulders above most of his contemporaries. You can close your eyes and point to a verse or lyric and hit a great one, but my favorite has always been the following from verse two,
Well, I realize that falling down ain’t graceful But I thank the Lord that falling’s full of grace Sometimes I take my eyes off Jesus And you know that’s all it takes
It’s simple yet who can’t relate to how easy it is to get sidetracked and take our eyes off of Jesus?
This is still Top 10 Peterson for me all these years later. (Josh Balogh)
21. Far Country (2005)
Way back in the Dark Days (those wasted years before I truly appreciated Andrew Peterson) “Far Country” was his one song I loved. I beg Mr. Peterson’s forgiveness for how long it took me to finally see the light! At that time in my life, I needed my music to be a little more rock and roll, and “Far Country” gave me just enough of that sort of thing to satisfy my underdeveloped sensibilities. (Phill Lytle)
20. Well Done, Good and Faithful (2018)
This one like many of Andrew’s work moves me deeply emotionally. Even as I re-read the lyrics as I listen to the song and type this I’m tearing up. It’s everything going on in the background that makes this song for me. The ambient string swirls and ethereal background vocals all work together for a truly gorgeous sentiment and sound. It’s the beautiful sacrifice of Jesus to willingly lay down His life for me. Me. I know, I am not worthy of that kind of love, but He did it.
For the joy set before him he endured And is seated on the right hand of the throne Well done, good and faithful, well done Well done, good and faithful one
For the joy set before him He endured. And so He is worthy to be praised, worthy to hear the phrase “well done, good and faithful one.” May it also be said of me when I reach my finish line. (Josh Balogh)
19. Last Words (Tenebrae) (2018)
At first, I was bothered by the intertwined parts singing over one another as it sounded chaotic making it hard to make out what was being sung. However, like many things, I’ve given time and effort to understand I began to appreciate to a deeper extent the last seven phrases shared by Jesus and it’s become a favorite song stemming from that extra effort. I’ll leave the phrases below, and may they spur you to worship as the completeness of the cross is made visible in a new or fresh way. (Josh Balogh)
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do Forgive them, they know not what they do
Today you will be with me in Paradise You will be with me today
Behold your son, behold your mother, behold your son...
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why have you forsaken me?
I thirst, I thirst...
It is finished, it is finished...
Father, into your hands, into your hands I commit my spirit
18. The Good Confession (I Believe) (2008)
Andrew Peterson excels at writing great folk songs AND great worship songs. While I am usually drawn more towards the folk side of his catalog, I appreciate this song because it combines both aspects of what he does so well. The verses are very personal and explore his life and coming to faith. The chorus is universal and would be right at home in a Sunday morning church service. (Michael Lytle)
17. Rejoice (2015)
“Rejoice” is Peterson’s request to join him in worship. Musically, “Rejoice” is some of Peterson’s best work. Peterson’s voice is joined by a beautiful arrangement of background vocals and swelling piano. It is rich and complex and deserves to be listened to carefully.
The biggest complaint against the song is its repetitive nature, however, I would argue that the repetition reflects the verse in Philippians that the song is based on. Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say Rejoice!” Stating the command to rejoice twice further emphasizes its importance; we must choose to rejoice in the midst of sorrow. The Burning Edge of Dawn is somewhat of a dark album, and Andrew Peterson perfectly places this song in the middle of it, to remind his listeners of the importance of rejoicing. It’s a beautiful and striking call to worship. (Aidan Lytle)
16. After the Last Tear Falls (2003)
After the last tear falls, after the last secret's told
After the last bullet tears through flesh and bone
After the last child starves and the last girl walks the boulevard
After the last year that's just too hard
There is love
Love, love, love
There is love
Love, love, love
There is love
After the last disgrace, after the last lie to save some face
After the last brutal jab from a poison tongue
After the last dirty politician, after the last meal down at the mission
After the last lonely night in prison
15. Dancing in the Minefields (2010)
I don’t think there are many lyricists who are better at capturing relationships with as much power and grace as Andrew Peterson. “Dancing in the Minefields” says so much in a compact 3 minutes and 30 seconds. An entire romance is told in those precious 210 seconds, a story of love, commitment, and vows. The beautiful dichotomy that plays out in the chorus is something I come back to time and again. (Phill Lytle)
And we went dancing in the minefields We went sailing in the storms And it was harder than we dreamed But I believe that's what the promise is for
14. Behold the Lamb of God (2004)
I pushed for the inclusion of this album on this list. Most of the songs on the album include guest vocalists and musicians, so it’s not a normal Andrew Peterson record. Additionally, all the songs work together in a way where no single song stands in isolation.
Still, I wanted songs from this album to be represented because this is my favorite Peterson album. He has several songs that are much better on other albums, but this production holds together in such a beautiful way. If you’ve ever had the chance to be in downtown Nashville in December, to see this album performed in its entirety at the Ryman with a full band and miniature orchestra, you are sure to have a special place deep in your soul for this music.
For those who don’t know, the album is a Christmas album in which Andrew Peterson tells the story of the coming of Jesus from the Passover to the birth of Christ. It is the story of Scripture with an emphasis on the need for messianic deliverance. Aside from a few instrumental classic carols, the songs are all new and brilliantly capture the metanarrative of redemption.
After sin and sorrow, cries of deliverance, genealogies, Mary’s pains in childbirth, and the angelic announcement to the shepherds; the musical story crescendos with all eyes set on the deliverer. The Lamb of God in the form of a helpless baby takes center stage. Peterson artistically appropriates the declaration of John the Baptist and puts this sentiment on the lips of all those who witness the Christ child. He and his friends capture this moment with some of their most beautiful harmonies. The song is simple and worshipful. It is a serene culmination to the ups and downs of the songs that came before it.
As good as it is on the album, you are going to need to go the Ryman in December to really see what I mean. (David Lytle)
13. Be Kind to Yourself (2015)
This song just hits different if you are a father. Especially if you are a father to a girl. I have a daughter almost the exact same age as Peterson’s daughter, so it has held a special place in my heart from the moment I first heard it. The song also serves as a beautiful reminder of how our Heavenly Father looks at each of us no matter how old we are or what kind of mess we have made of our life. (Michael Lytle)
12. The Silence of God (2003)
The beauty of “The Silence of God”, I think, is in its simplicity. The stripped-down acoustic style allows the words to echo in the ears of the listener, and the words are worth hearing. Peterson wrote this song when doubt crept in. A follower got lost. While surely there are those who have suffered more than I have, I am no stranger to grief or doubt. At a young age, I watched my mother grow very ill until she ultimately passed in 2011. It was a sorrow unspeakable, one that I buried deep within my heart.
An important theme in this song is remembrance. The burden of remembering sorriness strikes the heart of every man, including my own heart. Peterson’s reference to Isaiah 53 imbues that Christ shares in and bears our hurt.
The book of Isaiah describes this agony on the heart of Christ. Christ is the one on whom the Lord laid the iniquity of us all. Humbled he wept before God in the garden. Christ Jesus is acquainted with grief. The alto harmony elevates the song at just the right moment to paraphrase Isaiah 53:3, “The Man of All Sorrows, he never forgot what sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought.”
The bridge includes a small swell and airy piano chords, but the song has no real build because there is no resolution. Christ’s restoration does not erase the hurt and pain. “The aching remains,” says Peterson “but the breaking does not.” The heavens answered with the silence of God. (Sarah Benton)
11. In the Night (2010)
“In the Night” is one of my favorites because it’s Peterson’s most bluegrass song. We get a guitar, fiddle, and dobro solo. The other songs on this album sound nothing like this. Yet he is able to pull off a hauntingly beautiful bluegrass piece. I think that’s why this song has always stuck out to me. I like that Andrew Peterson chose to add such a unique sound.
Then of course he adds the depth of his songwriting. This isn’t a surprise because his lyrics on this album show that he is becoming a master of the craft.
The music and lyrics come together to let us feel the darkness that exists but also the hope within.
That is the secret sauce of his music. He doesn’t pretend that there is no darkness, but he knows where to find the light. (Brandon Atwood)
10. The Dark Before the Dawn (2015)
So I'm waiting for the King To come galloping out of the clouds while the angel armies sing He's gonna gather His people in the shadow of His wings And I'm gonna raise my voice with the song of the redeemed 'Cause all this darkness is a small and passing thing This is the storm, this is the storm The storm before the calm This is the pain, the pain before the balm This is the cold, the cold It's the cold before the warm These are the tears, the tears before the song This is the dark Sometimes all I see is this darkness Well, can't you feel the darkness This is the dark before the dawn
09. Carry The Fire (2012)
What happens when my favorite living songwriter intersects with one of the most powerful stories ever written? Magic. “Carry the Fire” was birthed from Andrew Peterson’s love for Cormac McCarthy’s transcendent novel, The Road, which happens to be one of my favorite books as well. It’s the perfect chemical combination to ensure that I had no choice but to fall completely in love with the song.
Musically, the song is as aggressive as anything Andrew Peterson has ever made. (Folks, there are distortion drenched guitars weaving in and out of the song!) And as Peterson does so well, there is a wonderful interplay between joy and pain, hope and doubt. And laced throughout the song there is a quiet defiance; a rejection of the hopelessness and fear that threaten to overwhelm us all. Those who carry the fire are called to something greater than anything this world can throw at us. “Carry the Fire” is a hopeful call-to-arms to keep singing even when our hope seems gone. (Phill Lytle)
08. Come Back Soon (2012)
It has taken some time, but Light for the Lost Boy has firmly landed as my number one Andrew Peterson album and “Come Back Soon” is a big reason why. The opening of the song is gentle and subdued yet throughout, just underneath the melody, is an escalating intensity driven by the rhythm section. The song waxes and wanes, ebbs and flows as Peterson’s lyrics speak of loss and fear giving way to a hard-won, delicate hope.
“Come Back Soon” serves as an announcement of a fearless, adventurous, and completely unleashed Andrew Peterson. (Phill Lytle)
07. The Rain Keeps Falling (2015)
Andrew Peterson is at his most vulnerable in this “dark night of the soul” song. Subjects like anxiety and depression are rarely, if ever, dealt with on “positive and encouraging” Christian radio stations. I am thankful for artists like Peterson who aren’t content to stick with clichés and happy messaging when life’s challenges require so much more. Ellie Holcomb’s vocals take this song up another level. (Michael Lytle)
06. His Heart Beats (2018)
“His Heart Beats”, the opener of Resurrection Letters, Vol. 1, sets in motion an album dedicated to the sacrifice of Christ’s death and the triumph of His resurrection. In this song, Andrew Peterson layers a low, drummed heartbeat underneath an alternate, thudding guitar line. The layers create a swinging motion that Peterson solidifies by matching his vocals to the established rhythms.
His method communicates his message extremely well. Death no longer has dominion of Christ. He won his bride, “his living lungs expand” and “the heavy air surrounding death turns to breath again.” Christ lives. We take comfort in this good news. Our hearts should beat in keeping with the saints as we look forward to the second coming of Christ. (Sarah Benton)
05. You’ll Find Your Way (2012)
As a father, this song wrecks me. Every prayer I’ve cried for my three boys is expressed with such grace and hope and love. Late in the song, one specific line lays bare Peterson’s beating heart, and as his voice shakes, I feel my own heart shake and sob.
And I love you so much and it's so hard to watch But you're gonna grow up and you're gonna get lost.
“You’ll Find Your Way” is a profound and intimate prayer of a father for his son. If I ever need to put words to my heart’s wordless petitions for my children, I go back to this song. (Phill Lytle)
Just go back, go back Go back, go back to the ancient paths Last your heart to the ancient mast And hold on, boy, whatever you do To the hope that's taken hold of you And you'll find your way You'll find your way If love is what you’re looking for The old roads lead to an open door And you’ll find your way You’ll find your way Back home
04. The Reckoning (How Long) (2010)
I know, I know, I know that I don't know what I'm asking
That line says so much about Andrew Peterson in just a few words. “The Reckoning” is a prayer. A soul’s cry for justice to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Musically, it’s all up-tempo rhythm section and energetic strumming; guitars and mandolins dancing around each other, strings filling out the sonic palate. The end result creates as dynamic a song as Peterson has ever recorded.
As the song progresses, Peterson continues to cry out for a final, triumphant universal healing. He feels the brokenness of the world and is desperate for God to make all things new. Yet tucked away near the end of the song, he bravely admits he doesn’t really know what he is asking. It’s that courage and honesty that draws us to Peterson’s music. That theological depth balanced by uncommon humility and piercing self-awareness. His music challenges us to know our Lord and ourselves better. (Phill Lytle)
03. The Sower’s Song (2015)
“The Sower’s Song” is easily one of Peterson’s best songs. The beginning melodic motif delicately defines the tone. It provides a sweetness to a mournful confession. Reminiscent of the psalms, Peterson opens his heart to God in prayer and supplication. This song joins complementary promises from John 15 and Isaiah 55: God will be faithful to those who are faithful to Him.
The hushed chords of the bridge stress the significance of Isaiah 55. Andrew Peterson sings the promise like an anthem, and the swell of the accompaniment gives the listener a sense of hope—a bittersweet hope that God will provide justice on the earth and in the heavens. Then it returns, that faithful refrain of the Sower, who sows the seed, waters the earth, and reaps the promises of God’s Word. (Sarah Benton)
02. Don’t You Want to Thank Someone (2012)
U2’s masterpiece The Joshua Tree is considered to have the best opening trio of songs in pop music history. The album opens with “Where the Streets Have no Name” and that song is followed by “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With or Without You.” Three absolute classics back-to-back to back. This may be a hot take, but I would submit that the three closing tracks on Peterson’s Light for the Lost Boy album are among the best closing trios in music.
My fellow voters would appear to agree with this take since “Carry the Fire” finished 9th on our list and “You’ll Find Your Way” finished 5th. It is the final track that we are here to talk about now though. Simply put, “Don’t You Want to Thank Someone” is the crowning achievement of Andrew Peterson’s career. Clocking in at nearly 10 minutes long this song is epic in every sense of the word.
Peterson’s lyrics start at a place of general revelation, exploring the sense we all possess that there is more to life than what we can see. As the song observes the joy and pain of life Peterson steers us towards the conclusion that God exists and that His plan of redemption deserves our eternal gratitude. The song ends with the refrain “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Come back Soon, Come back Soon.”
As great as the lyrics are, the music does not take a back seat. The song has a “bigger” sound than most in Peterson’s catalog which is needed to hold the listeners’ attention for nearly three times the average song length. If it was not already obvious this is my favorite Andrew Peterson song and while I wish it would have made number 1 on our list, I am thankful for the chance to write about it. (Michael Lytle)
01. Is He Worthy? (2018)
The book of Revelation has a unique place in the New Testament canon. It’s the book that many pastors avoid preaching from, while others seem to want to talk about nothing else. The book is often associated with end-times debates, the mark of the beast, disagreements about the rapture, and competing views of the millennium. Needless to say, Revelation holds distinctive exegetical challenges for pastors, theologians, and common Christians alike. I’m not here to engage in any of these discussions; I’m here to talk about a song.
As difficult as interpreting Revelation may be, I am convinced that Andrew Peterson’s “Is He Worthy?” gets it better than most sermons I’ve heard. Peterson understands what John was going after when he told us his marvelous panoramic vision of the spiritual realities behind the veil of this present darkness. Revelation, which is a work of apocalyptic literature, is exactly that—lifting the veil to show unseen spiritual truths.
The song begins with one of the most haunting lines to summarize the reality of our life: “Do you feel the world is broken?” I requested this song at my son Theodore’s funeral because I acutely felt the truth of this line. If you’ve lived long enough, you and your people will be able to respond to Peterson’s line with a soul shattered “We do.”
The song, of course, does not end with brokenness. It brings us to the reality of Christ’s redemption at the center of all things. This is why I believe this song “gets” the book of Revelation. The central dramatic scene in the book comes in chapters 4 and 5. In chapter 4, we glimpse into the throne room of heaven. We see the unrestrained worship of strange heavenly creatures. When the 24 elders lay their crowns in front of the throne, they declare God himself to be “worthy.”
In Chapter 5, God presents a scroll that no one can open until, in dramatic fashion, the Lion of Judah is declared to be “worthy.” When John turns to see the fierce Lion, he sees a slain Lamb. This Lamb is the Lion who is also the only one in heaven or earth or anywhere that is “worthy” to open the scroll. I hope you see what John is doing in this scene. The Lamb is getting the same worship and accolades that were given to God on his throne. This Lamb, whose death redeems those of every tribe and tongue, is the God who rules the universe.
Peterson’s song beautifully invites us to live these scenes from Revelation 4 and 5. He begins with a recognition of the cold reality we currently inhabit, but he pulls back the veil to help us see the Lamb and the throne. It is here that the central truth of the universe, the truth of our Redeemer’s reign, eclipses the shadow that sometimes weighs so heavily on us.
“Is He Worthy?” reminds us that God truly does desire to dwell again with us and of the pains he took to accomplish this end. While Christ is worthy of all praise and glory by his very nature, it is his sacrifice on our behalf that enables us to recognize his worth. Because he was slain, we can proclaim his worth. (David Lytle)
That’s our Andrew Peterson list. Now, we want to see yours. Post it in the comment section below or at any of our social media accounts. You can find us on Facebook or Twitter. Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed this or any other of our articles, please share with your friends.