Song Review: Amy Grant’s ‘Tree’s We’ll Never See’
- “Statues fall and glory fades, but a 100-year-old oak tree still gives shade.” What would our Western culture, with all its wealth and opportunity, look like if we embraced this perspective?
She was the first Christian artist to have a platinum album, perform at the GRAMMY Awards, and is generally thought to have put Christian Music on the map. And for any doubters, she has the accolades and awards to prove it. Amy Grant has been on the music scene for forty years, and endured many hardships and challenges, clearing the way for so many to follow.
She is also not only a Christian music artist, but she has crossed over into secular music on numerous occasions. Of course, some howled their displeasure at this; God forbid a Christian brings their art to the world. Now Amy is releasing her first album in a decade, and the lead track is Tree’s We’ll Never See. It is a gentle jewel of wisdom encouraging us to consider a broader perspective on life.
Music and Production
The song and album are produced by Marshall Altman, who also wrote the song. As would be expected from a musician of Amy’s caliber, and a producer of Altman’s caliber, the productions are stellar.
The song starts with an acoustic arpeggio that travels through the piece either in part or in whole, leading the listener along a forest path of contemplation. It has a restrained chorus, fitting the theme of the song. It stays restrained throughout, letting the lyrics and melody carry the piece. Amy and Altman use a small choir towards the end to mixed effect. Overall the song works very well.
I rarely have a section for theme in my reviews, but in this case, it’s needed. The theme in Tree’s We’ll Never See is portrayed with the simple image of planting an acorn that, as the title implies, will grow into a mighty oak that the planter will never see grow to fruition. It’s an effective metaphor for not just investing in the now, but in the future; not doing something for glory, but doing things that will stand the test of time and benefit others.
The first verse speaks to the work needed to plant an unrealized future, then moves into the lyric, “You need seed and sweat and soil and sweet sunshine. Once those roots take hold, you’ll be just fine.” This captures the beauty of God’s design for clothing the beauty of the fields, but also our own sanctification.
What most struck me was the concept of perspective reflected in the lyric, “Statues fall and glory fades, but a 100-year-old oak tree still gives shade.” What would our Western culture, with all its wealth and opportunity, look like if we embraced this perspective? What a world we would leave for others.
The song’s overall sound is a welcome throwback to Amy’s earlier ballads from the late eighties and early nineties, like in her album Heart in Motion. The song takes a musical journey both lyrically and musically, leading the listener to the message of the piece. Although the song builds as it progresses, it never goes over the top. Instead, Amy and Marshall use restraint to enhance the song’s overall theme.
As she has done in so many of her projects, Amy keeps the melody in a limited range that invites you to sing along. It’s recorded in a singable key for most people adding to its accessibility. Intentional or not, Amy’s listener-first technique of writing and performing invites others to join in, not just observe. It’s a big part of her success, at least in my opinion.
We live in a culture that embraces and champions immediate gratification, me-me-me-first, and evil-is-good. We see truth distorted, not just in the world, but in many churches as well. If only we had an eternal perspective that embraced the ‘selfless’ as opposed to the ‘selfish,’ that did for others as you would have them do for you; that invested in the future instead of the now. That’s what this song is trying to say. What if the Church really embraced this idea?
This is a needed, gentle push to challenge Western culture.
It could use a little more musical buildup to the crescendo.
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Christopher Watson is an author of six books, both fiction and non-fiction. He is also a musician and composer with a B.A. in Music from Azusa Pacific University. For several years Christopher led worship at The Springs Church while attending Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas Texas. He's been involved with worship in a number of churches in California and the Pacific Northwest both as a musician and in production and technology. Now he lives and writes in Washington State with his amazing wife, wonderful daughters, and highly intelligent dog, Ellie Mae.