On March 2-3, 2020, a devastating tornado outbreak tore through western and central Tennessee, destroying businesses and homes and killing 25 people. One of the 15 confirmed tornadoes, an EF3, crossed the Cumberland River and struck East Nashville, damaging or destroying scores of structures. Among those was the home of Eric Peters and his family.
But this description is too detached and impersonal. It cannot convey the fear—mortal fear—and shock; the wounds, visible and invisible; the profound loss, both of possessions and their deep meaning; and the shattered sense of safety. It cannot convey the terror of a father reaching his son’s room just in time, diving in to shelter him before the room is destroyed. It cannot describe how three years on, wounds have healed yet scars remain.
It took every bit of those three years for Peters to write his 13th studio album, EP. This collection of six songs revisits that terrifying night, shines a brave light into the mines of depression and addiction, and seeks to understand—or at least name—some of the grace that keeps us holding on.
“Run Away” opens the EP with an empathetic ear for the frightened hearts who have a tendency to shut people out. The song is a gentle admonition that is earned by a single line: “But you should know, when I run away, I feel the same way too.”
EP is in many ways a redemption. It is acute anguish, emotions processed with some passing of time, and testimony of the longer and slower process of healing, all redeemed in songs that can sit alongside you while you grieve. Mark Geil
“Same Four Walls” follows with a “last gasp prayer” from the depths. The song feels almost manic-depressive, with deeply personal and plaintive lyrics set to a surprising high-tempo synth beat. Peters calls this “approachable levity,” and it works as a disarming entry into a heart that “got crushed when the walls came down.” A refrain matches the paradoxical nature of the music, and speaks to the complexity of depression: “All I want is to be alone, but promise me you’ll never leave me alone.”
“Disappointing Song” is a dear song of understanding from father to son. The tender lyric puts its arm around you and echoes “It’s gonna be alright.” “The Sea is Never Full” finds a tight groove in exploring the truth of fulfillment in Ecclesiastes.
“That’s What the Loss Is” feels a few years removed from the tornado. When I hear about natural disasters, I try to pray for the people affected, whether I know them or not. What I too often fail to do is spare a thought for them during the long, long path of recovery. This song is a reminder of that process, full of trauma and full of grace.
The standout track on EP is “The Bread,” one of Eric Peters’ greatest songs. Lyrically, it plants us in the terror of the storm:
I was there in the moment of silence I was there with you just before Every room in the house exploded And I dragged you to the floor.
Musically, the song feels more like the morning after. The neighborhood is devastated. The reality of what has just happened still feels impossible. And people come, and people help each other. There is gentle defiance in Peters’ voice as he invokes “Come, Ye Disconsolate” from his Hymns album: “Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.”
That community, that “communion in the streets” is one of the shining lights on EP. It’s fitting, then, that the album was formed out of devastation but among friends. Taylor Leonhardt guests on “Run Away,” as does Lori Chaffer on “Same Four Walls” and “Disappointing Song.” Gabe Scott is a powerful addition to “The Sea is Never Full.” Asher Peterson’s production takes some risks while always maintaining awareness of the expressive gift of Peters’ voice.
One of the platitudes offered to console those who have suffered tragedy or loss is some form of, “Now you will be able to minister to those who go through similar difficulties.” In the moment, this is often unhelpful, but it is nonetheless well-intentioned. We do hope that the God who promises to work things out for good can somehow redeem our suffering as a gift to others. And He does. Sometimes, it’s enough for someone who knows some taste of your pain to just come and sit alongside you while you grieve. EP is in many ways a redemption. It is acute anguish, emotions processed with some passing of time, and testimony of the longer and slower process of healing, all redeemed in songs that can sit alongside you while you grieve.
Eric Peters’ EP is available for download and on all streaming services on March 17. You can pre-order your copy here.