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Andrew Osenga
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Photographs - Click to view!A country boy leaves his small hometown and heads for the big city, dreaming of doing great things and being a great man. He knows-or thinks he knows-that it will be hard, but he does not doubt his talents. After nearly twenty years of gleaning wisdom from his family and friends, he's ready to attack the real world, bringing change and new life to everything.

I don't know Andrew personally, but after listening to Photographs, I'd wager that he was a lot like this country boy when he first came to Nashville nearly five years ago. This album presents the story of a man who has learned a lot about life since he first entered the music industry. Triumphs and disappointments, greetings and good-byes, security and indecision—they're all here, presented in words that will grasp at your heart and ring through your mind, finding similarities everywhere. Yet, there is no bitterness on Photographs, not even to the cruel hand of time that separates and destroys. Rather, each song is like a fond memory: the initial joy may be gone, but what once filled your heart has been replaced by something more glorious.

The pain is there in every song. "Kara" laments that love was quickly followed and just as quickly abandoned. The trials we slog through in our temporal lives are painfully described ("Photograph"). Our inability to fulfill our highest expectations is pondered in "We Were Sure We Would Change the World," a fitting tribute to the life of The Normals. And what of the weakness we so often see in ourselves? "When Will I Run" and "Too Far to Walk" weep over our frailty, recalling times when we ignored what we knew was right.

But just as a day is not defined solely by its storms, these songs are not simply about the pain. The blessing of family is celebrated in "Kankakee," a tribute to those who built strong families and a deep river for generations to come. Life's beautiful way of joining young and old is felt in "The High School Band," a tribute to those who, despite the sting of loss, can come together and listen to "young ones playing the old songs." Other songs come full circle as the pain is redeemed: "Photograph" takes assurance in being able to move on, and "Too Far to Walk" finds shelter in the Father who still accepts the prodigals as sons.

Lest you think that the lyrics are the sole redeeming factor, the music is an adventure on its own. Andrew dips into the large pot of Americana, bringing influences from all across the table into this album. Some songs are lilting folk numbers that could sing you to sleep; others are trademark Andy with the heart-wrenching solo guitar and vocals (especially the ballad "Beautiful Girl"). Still others will surprise you. Who would have expected a small horn section (found on "The High School Band") on an album recorded without a professional studio? Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of all, however, is "Vegas," a rockabilly number that could have easily been sung by Johnny Cash. And is any of it under-produced? No! Andrew and his friends managed to produce an album that is superior to many record label projects-both in its quality and attractiveness.

Fans who come to this CD expecting to hear The Normals will be disappointed: Andrew's solo sound is vastly different than his past musical products. Yet, one can't be disappointed too long, for these songs are far too true to be ignored. They will meet you where you are and mold themselves into a valuable lesson that will slap you in the face and then help you get back on your feet. Because that's what photographs are for.
- Jason Ewert
January 2003

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