The Archives

Eric Peters: A Man With Something to Say

"After each album, I always make sure to quit my job. A man only has so much to say." Even after conducting what is now thousands of interviews, I still remember that line from a veteran songwriter. It came in the midst of a long rant against artists and bands who "don't know when to quit." Most artists face a steep climb toward longevity of any kind, but the criticism here was that some artists continue to make music because that's all they know. Facing the fear that he won't know when to quit, like the musicians he was critiquing, the songwriter wanted to make sure there was actually something to say with each new release. Looking through my own favorite artists, I understand his point. Some of my favorites have lost me somewhere along the way, with careers that seem top-heavy from early, important releases. It's a relatable pressure for me, akin to when I wondered how to illustrate yet another sermon after telling personal stories to the same community of believers every Sunday for a decade. A man only has so much to say. Sometimes, however, the opposite is true.

Pre-orders Open: The Burning Edge of Dawn

Pre-orders are now open for Andrew Peterson's forthcoming The Burning Edge of Dawn. The album won't be released until October 9th, but when you pre-order it you'll be able to immediately download three (!) tracks from the record: "We Will Survive," "The Rain Keeps Falling," and "The Power Of A Great Affection." Get thee to the Rabbit Room Store! 7ab5224593af4756df517434_610x610-1

Death and Desire in the Shadows

I've always considered Jon Foreman to be a prophet of sorts to the postmodern world. Ever since Switchfoot, his main musical venture, broke into the mainstream with “Meant to Live,” his songs have challenged us to consider the meaning of our existence here on earth, and our often futile chase after fleeting pleasures. Along with these themes, his songwriting has harbored an increasing focus on death, and seeking out true life in light of impending mortality. The lyrics of “Where I Belong” come to mind, from one of Switchfoot's more recent albums, Vice Verses:

But I'm not sentimental This skin and bones is a rental And no one makes it out alive

Until I die I'll sing these songs On the shores of Babylon Still looking for a home In a world where I belong

These themes of death and desire come to full fruition in Foreman's latest solo EP Shadows, which is part of a four EP project called The Wonderlands, a set of twenty-four songs moving through Sunlight, Shadows, Darkness, and Dawn.

One Minute Review: Straight Outta Compton

Fr. Thomas is back with Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E. Let's do this. One Minute Review: Straight Outta Compton from Thomas McKenzie on Vimeo.

Creating a Picture Book: Part II – Things I Didn’t Think About

[This is the second post about the creation of Ellen and the Winter Wolves. You can read part I here.] After finishing the text for Ellen and the Winter Wolves, I thought I would simply crank out twelve to fourteen illustrations and be done. (I thought twelve to fourteen would be the perfect number because that seemed manageable with my schedule.) So I sat down and broke the text up, attempting to make the breaks at natural transition points. I ended up with fourteen pages. A problem quickly became apparent to me, however. As I sat on the floor reading the pages aloud, I realized if I was reading this to a kid, each page would take way too long to get through. They would be bored. This story is somewhat text-heavy (at the time it was around 3,400 words) and so fourteen illustrations weren't going to be nearly enough.

Let’s Take It From The Top

Nick Flora debuted his new music video for "Let's Take it from the Top" on Monday. How many people in the video do you recognize? Good luck getting that "Only...Lonely" ear-worm out of your head. Come out to North Wind Manor this Saturday at 7:30pm and see Nick live with Jon Troast. It's going to be a fun night. Tickets available here.

New Release: In the Round, Vol. 1

Almost four years ago, we published our first issue of The Molehill. The intent for the book, an anthology, was that it would give us an opportunity to showcase the works of different people in the community and hopefully introduce readers to writer's they hadn't encountered before. The Molehill, Vol. 4 is now in the making, and I think it's safe to say the series is a success. So let me introduce In the Round, Vol. 1. Think of it as The Molehill for musicians. We've pulled together a compilation album from within the Rabbit Room community in the hopes that it will not only be a fun collection of music, but that it will give you a first taste of a talented bunch of musicians that you might not have heard before.

The Rabbit Room Store 3.0

The webstore has been showing some wear and tear for a while now, but no more. The new Rabbit Room Store is now live, and we think you're going to like it. So what's new? ---Gift Cards ---The ability to gift downloads ---Pay with Paypal (or any credit card) ---Download links both at checkout and emailed to you ---A working Coming Events calendar ---Better (and more accurate) shipping options ---A shareable wishlist ---Easier navigation ---A review and ratings system that's actually reliable ---The Rabbit Hole (find out for yourself) ---The ability to update your account and change your password and email settings ---General fanciness NOTE: Unfortunately you'll need to create a new account for this new version of the store. Go check it out, and while you're at it, you might want to pick up In the Round Vol. 1 or JJ Heller's new CD that just released last week, Sound of a Living Heart. Take a look around, we're sure you'll find something you like. (And if you find anything that's not working correctly, please shoot us an email at [email protected] and let us know so we can get it fixed.) Rabbit Room Members--read this... Your current Membership ID will not work in the new store (yet). We're presently working on a solution that will apply your discount automatically during checkout.

Storied Lives

I wrote this piece five years ago. Two years later, my Daddy was diagnosed with a merciless disease, and on Monday, August 3, at 67 years old, he passed from this life into the presence of his Savior. I’m so thankful that his sufferings are over, but the enormity of my loss will mark me for life. Tell your stories, friends. And love your people. It was a glorious November day, stark and long-shadowed as only South Georgia can make it. The road we traversed was a familiar one—as familiar as the drive to my own home—and every field and house and stand of pines was a familiar friend. Even the red dirt roads veering off to the left and right, which I’d never traversed but in fancy, were known to me. I remembered straining my child-eyes down them as we whizzed past in that lumbering Buick station wagon, my sister crouched up against the opposite window with a book and my brother hanging his elbows over the seat from the ‘back back’ and infringing upon my highly affronted personal space, and knowing what their sudden curves and tree-hung shadows held hidden from the passing view. I saw the old white farmsteads and the barns weathered black with their rusted tin roofs and the pine-guarded pastures stubbled gold in the light of a vanishing year. And if the imaginative sprite was strong upon me, I saw the folks that once inhabited them: women fiercely womanly whether their labor lay in a garden or a schoolroom or an immaculate kitchen, and men whose veteran integrity infused humble origins and working clothes with a courtly grandeur. I both saw and knew such phantom figures, for they were none other than composite daydreams of the kith and kin I had heard stories about all my life.

The Universe in a Cube of Cheese

My eighteen-year-old son is a math whiz. He’s the kind of kid who learns Calculus 2 from some website, then lands a perfect score on the AP test without ever taking the class. Meanwhile, I’m still struggling with five times seven. Was it really fifteen years ago when I bought a gallon bucket of plastic counting bears to teach him addition? Now he’s dragging me to the kitchen table at midnight and patiently drawing out diagrams on paper napkins, unpacking the glories of the numerical universe one step at a time. He’s a born teacher, massaging higher math into the vernacular until my fog lifts, waiting for that moment when I gasp because I finally understand. All at once I see what he means and why it matters (Hallelujah!). I see why this concept is beautiful, why he wanted me to see it; then just as fast all the light passes away, and I’m back in the dark.

Mapping The Dragon Lord Saga

I don't think about it a lot, but maps are kind of a big deal to me. As a kid, I would sit in the back seat of the mini-van while my mother ran errands to the grocery store and the dry cleaners, and I would use my crayons and spiral-bound notebook to scrawl maps of the streets we drove and the stores we passed, like Ben does in Song of the Sea. bensmap Most of my favorite books include maps to help me chart my way through the story --- books like The Lord of the Rings, The Wingfeather Saga, Jeff Smith's BONE, Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet, The Chronicles of Narnia, and --- of course --- The Hobbit. In fact, one of the main recurring plot devices in The Hobbit is a map, one which sets the entire plot moving and often takes center stage as the characters try to find their way to a secret entrance. I can't quite claim a Bilbo-level affection for maps, but every explorer knows that a journey requires a map --- especially if that journey is in the pages of a good fantasy story.

Hogan’s House of Music

Throughout his life – and certainly throughout his extraordinary career – multi-instrumentalist Ron Block has been something of a musical Huck Finn, a tireless adventurer exploring various styles yet rooted firmly in the bluegrass-country tradition. Now the longtime member of the Grammy-winning band Alison Krauss and Union Station discovers a whole new area of uncharted terrain, with the release of his fourth solo album, Hogan's House of Music, his first-ever all-instrumental collection. Whether it's the fierce, passionate bluegrass of "Smartville," which incorporates pentatonic, string-bending electric guitar-inspired left-hand banjo work, or his hopped-up take on the classic "Clinch Mountain Backstep," Block's myriad influences are on display throughout the new collection, from Flatt and Scruggs to Larry Carlton to a lifetime of memorable experiences which the consummate musician pours into each track, resulting in 16 unique and compelling wordless stories. Supplementing Block's own banjo and guitar playing on the album is a host of celebrated musicians, including his Union Station band mates Barry Bales, Alison Krauss, Dan Tyminski, and Jerry Douglas, as well as Stuart Duncan, Sierra Hull, Adam Steffey, Sam Bush, Tim Crouch, Rob Ickes, Clay Hess, Mark Fain, Byron House, Lynn Williams, and Jeff Taylor. The backing tracks run the gamut from a simple banjo and mandolin duet ("Seneca Squaredance") to the free-for all of "Mooney Flat Road," which spotlights two guitars, mandolin, octave mandolin, two fiddles, banjo, snare, bass, and accordion. "I tried to distinguish the songs from one another, to have songs with a few instruments and then songs with a lot more instrumentation," he explains. "You can also vary the material with tempo and with the kind of song that it is, like on 'Clinch Mountain Backstep' with string bends or the pretty 'Spotted Pony,' or the slow and pretty 'Gentle Annie.' You get all these different feels together and you can put a record together."

England: Day Eight

Pappy and I drove south from Oxford to the Isle of Wight, but not before heading to the Kilns to see C. S. Lewis's house and then the short drive to Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry to see his grave. Graves are funny. Let me qualify that. Death is most certainly not funny, and neither are graves, really, though some of the epitaphs at Disney's Haunted Mansion are. What I mean is that, unless you were close to the person buried, there isn't much to do other than stand there awkwardly for a few minutes and then move on. That happened years ago when Ben Shive, Laura Story, and a few others of us visited Rich Mullins's grave in Indiana. It was meaningful, truly, but only for about 90 seconds. As I recall, we reenacted the Spinal Tap scene at Elvis's grave, only we sang "Awesome God" with bad harmony instead of "Heartbreak Hotel." Call me disrespectful, but I think Rich would have liked it.

Sunday, Late July

Sunday afternoon, and I’m sitting on a picnic table under an open shelter at the local state park. I’m up on a hill that looks down on the lake, watching a bunch of people messing around in the water. Maybe fifteen preschoolers are held afloat by inflatable arm rings, and they are bobbing in orbit around their parents like Jupiter’s moons gone wild. The older kids are playing shark, sitting on each other’s shoulders, and dunking one another under the dirty green water. If I were their mothers, I would be terrified about somebody drowning or getting a brain amoeba; but these are women who wear big sunglasses and tank tops while smoking cigarettes; they throw their heads back and laugh so easily. Some folks are able to live fully in the present, and they are probably healthier than I am because of it. Under a tree shade a little way out from the water, a couple is sitting on a blanket, putting suntan lotion on each other. They’ve been going over the same spots six or seven times, kissing every few seconds, hugging and fondling. All these people are sitting around them, and they don’t seem to mind the audience a bit. The guy is wearing a doo rag and the girl has dry blonde hair grown out a couple inches from dark roots. They’ve got to be all sweaty in this heat. He's too pink, she is too burnt, and they are both too soft to win any beauty competitions, but they are each the whole world to the other this afternoon, and I'm glad those little kids in the water aren’t paying too much attention to what’s happening on the land.

A Cure For Head And Shoulders Syndrome

If you're an illustrator and you suffer from a condition I refer to as "Head and Shoulders Syndrome," I'm here to say there is hope. This is a condition that plagued me for many years until I had a revelation. First, let me explain the condition. Say, you sit down to sketch, and you rack your brain for something cool to put down on that blank sheet of paper. After thinking for what seems like forever, your inspiration to draw is slipping and you do the only thing you know to do. You draw a portrait of a character. A profile. His head and shoulders. That's it. You go no further. No arms. Certainly no hands, because hands are a huge pain in the rear and frankly, it's easier to pretend there are no hands in the world you are drawing. I'm not poking fun at you. I've been through this for years with myself. I don't know what the cause is, or if there is a singular cause at all. Is it possibly that, for most of us, the face is the most expressive thing we see each day? Every face we come in contact with? Maybe it's that we see all of the expressions in a face and they make an imprint on our creativity.