A Walk Down Peter Mayer’s Third Street

Album cover

Peter Mayer Third Street

Peter Mayer’s latest album, Third Street, sounds like the cover art looks: peaceful and tranquil, but revealing multiple layers and considerable depth.

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Third Street is Mayer’s ninth studio album, and it includes several songs that he has been performing live for a while. Where his previous release, Heaven Below, looked out into the world and the cosmos for its inspiration, Third Street turns inward: there are songs for and about his children, about ancestors and the nostalgic title song remembering how he met and courted the woman to whom he is now married.

And my heart led my feet
Through the snow that had fallen on Third Street
Past the courthouse
The old jail
Past the Post Office where one day we’d get our mail
And I must have thought, on the way
It wasn’t only the snow that seemed rare on that day
It was the air
And the light
As I walked down Third Street to this beautiful life
With you

Throughout his career as a musician Mayer, a former Catholic seminarian, has tackled spiritual topics. Earlier songs including “God is a River,” “Holy Now” and “Heaven Below,” express a universalist theology, influenced perhaps by process theology, pantheism or panentheism and reverence for nature. On Third Street, he offers “Winds of October,” a song that for the first time finds Mayer expressing essentially pagan ideas:

Stir up the curtain
The curtain is thin
And when the dead reach out
From the other side, let me reach in

I’ll take the hands of ancestors unseen
Greet them all who’ve gone before me
Walk in the light of that land in between
The waking world and the dream.

Mayer has always sprinkled humor through his albums, songs that evoke smiles and laughter without being novelty tunes per se. He offers three of them here: “Dr. Seuss,” “Hot Pickles” and “Head of the Shed.” They leaven the weight of what is otherwise a relatively introspective and sometimes melancholy collection.

Peter Mayer performs.

Peter Mayer performs.

Peter Mayer is well-known among Unitarian Universalists, and has become a kind of unofficial UU bard because his spiritual themes are comfortable and familiar among practitioners of liberal post-Christian religion. But he deserves a wider fan base, because as his official bio says, he truly “writes songs for a small planet.” Anyone who lives the human experience can appreciate what he has to say.

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