Posted by: Nathan | July 31, 2007

Osenga’s Photographs

Andrew Osenga entered my life by writing some of the best songs on Caedmon’s Call‘s epic Share the Well*. He’d long since been recommended to me by my friends, especially Dan, and I finally decided to take them up on it. After all, the guy wrote “Mother India” and “The Roses.”

osengaphotographs.jpgI’m very glad I did. Photographs is a solid and occasionally exceptional album. The style is mostly relaxed, which is always enjoyable, but Osenga doesn’t limit himself to melancholy or slow. Photographs has a variety of sounds, ranging from wistful (“Kara”) and poetic (“New Mexico”) to grandiose (“High School Band”) and driving (“Vegas”). And Osenga is willing to play the songs out, by which I mean that the music continues powerfully after the lyrics are finished. This is truly a rare attribute in songwriting, especially now when the artist is always supposed to be greater than the music. Osenga is content to put the music first, which frees the songs to swell and become what they ought to be.

Photographs, like every good album, rewards multiple listenings. Osenga is an excellent lyricist, which is a rare talent among song writers these days, and the more I catch the words, the more I like the music. One of the best aspects of the lyrics on this record is that Osenga is frequently a storyteller and a good one.

The most famous and perhaps best track is “High School Band,” wherein the lives and experiences of the residents in a small town become the universal story of our lives: “And Michael Brown Brown, / who came to town in 1981 / to teach at the college his second wife, / Margaret, attended, before they split up. / Now he’s on number four, / and he’s tired and sore / and figures their time has passed, / but it’s a beautiful day, / and he can get away / when he’s listening / to the High School band”

“Kara” is the song of Osenga’s (and everyone’s) first love, but the power of the lyrics is their incisiveness: “She worked on weekends down at the grocery, / so Saturday morning I had to go shopping. / We made some small talk, I tried to be funny, / when she smiled with those innocent eyes, / I knew she could see through me.”

Osenga is the consummate writer who always shows and never tells. The weight of the past in “Man of the House,” the empty yearning of “Vegas,” the spiritual warfare of “When Will I Run?”, and the expansive landscape of “New Mexico” all point to Osenga being a gifted songwriter. I love this disc and will listen to it many more times; I can’t wait to buy The Morning.

Photographs is an A-, 8.6/10. Definitely a good purchase.

*Share the Well is an exceptional musical achievement for any artist, Christian or secular. You’d really do yourself a favor to give it a listen.

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Responses

  1. Three cheers for AO! I’m glad you like the CD – it is also one of my favorites. Osenga is a great storyteller. You are write to say he “shows and never tells” That is perhaps my favorite part of “High School Band.” There is the great juxtaposition of the pastor and Michael Brown which brings the listener to see the goodness of one life and the sadness of the other without a hint of judgment or condemnation. Osenga tells it as if he is a impartial bystander.

    My favorite songs on this album used to be “Too Far To Walk” and “High School Band” but as I get older, I find myself liking “New Mexico” more and more.

    I’m interested to see what you think of The Morning. When I first listened to it, I liked it, but not on the same level as Photographs. That has, however, changed over time. I now listen to The Morning a good deal more often than I do Photographs. What is so interesting to me about Osenga’s music, is that as I age I find his music aging with me. One finally plug: Osenga’s latest solo effort, Letter’s to the Editor Vol. 1, is available for download FREE at http://www.andrewosenga.com. The project is really good and is just AO with a guitar. If you like it, you can easily send 6 bucks or so to Osenga to cover the costs. Thanks for the post! (and sorry this comment is so long!)

  2. I’ll admit that I haven’t given Andrew Osenga as much time as either you or Dan. That said, one can’t help but feel that he is a gifted singer/songwriter after only a few listens. He is a storyteller extraordinaire, and finds beautiful prose more often than most artists (Christian or non-).

    Thanks, Dan, for pointing out Letters to the Editor, Vol. 1. It’s really great. I think my favorite might be “Swing Wide the Glimmering Gates.” Another great feature is that, on my ipod at least, the lyrics appear after a few clicks on a particular song (much the way one gets album art to enlarge). How great is that? I can get the music and lyrics all in one easy-to-use package. I’ll admit, though, that I’ve never been as much of a “gotta have the physical cd” guy as either Nathan or Dan.

    Incidentally, I recently learned that Caedmon’s Call is coming out with a new album on August 28th. w00t!


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