Several months ago, I was browsing through the music section at one of my favorite thrift stores when I stumbled across an unusual looking Christmas album. Rather than the glossy, glowy sheen of most holiday album covers, this album had a simple, stark, black and white photograph of a winter pine, accompanied by the title Midwinter. Intrigued, I opened the liner notes, and was surprised to discover that one of my favorite singer-songwriters, David Wilcox, was mentioned in the acknowledgments and was involved in the project.
Midwinter, by Minnesota singer-songwriter Peter Mayer, works in the same vein as Sting’s If On A Winter’s Night…, in that it explores both holiday specific tunes and themes of the winter season in general. What sets this album apart is Mayer’s beautiful lyricism, which is on display immediately in the opening track “Stables”:
In Bethlehem a manger waits Long ago and so today Where hatred-weary people pray Love will come and lay there
And so do countless stables stand In hearts as harsh as desert lands Rough shelters in the wind and sand That love may come and stay there
Love that opens fists of hate Heaps up gold on beggars’ plates Love that shows a kindly face To enemies and strangers
And the walls of stables tremble so When the winds of fear and judgment blow For a stable hopes in love alone And knows that love’s the answer
O Love, the prophet’s only word The only lesson left to learn The only end of heaven’s work And the only road that goes there
Love that sees with mercy’s eyes Holds its arms out open wide Threads its loom with separate lives And weaves them all together
So may the lamps of stables glow Brightly that their light may go For miles in the darkness, so Love will find its way there
In “The Houses of Winter” Mayer poetically meditates on both the warmth and harshness of the darkest season of the year. Another song that stands out for me is the spiritually themed “God Is A River”, which sounds like it could’ve been written by our own Andrew Peterson.
If you’re looking a holiday/winter album a bit off the beaten track this year, I’d highly recommend Peter Mayer’s Midwinter.