Sounds like … acoustic folk-pop reminiscent of Paul Simon, Andrew Peterson, Derek Webb, James Taylor, and Chris Rice to name a few.

At a glance … Osenga's EP is an enjoyable barebones folk-pop project with thoughtful acoustic multi-tracking and clever incorporation of fan suggestions into worthwhile songwriting—and it's yours to download for free.

This era of independent music and digital downloads is intriguing to say the least, providing new opportunities for artists to connect directly with audiences. Case in point: Andrew Osenga, former front man of The Normals, presently a guitarist/vocalist with Caedmon's Call, whose project The Morning made it on our Best Albums of 2006 list, though he remains independent as a solo artist.

Osenga recorded this Letters to the Editor, Vol. 1 EP at home during a couple of weeks in May/June 2007, performing all six songs mainly by himself with an acoustic guitar, though he cleverly used multi-tracking to add texture and vocal harmonies. In a move reminiscent of Derek Webb's Mockingbird promotion, he's made the EP available for free download, including a "virtual booklet" packed with lyrics, photos, and more.

But there's more to it than that. The project is a "fan collaboration" for which people sent in song suggestions—mostly personal stories, idea fragments, and song titles—that Osenga developed into fully fleshed songs. For example, one fan asked for a song about escaping small-town life and requested that his daughter's name be used. Another wanted a song with sci-fi elements in it. Thus we have "Anna and the Aliens," a riff on the classic story of two young lovers with plans to run off to New York—and it's actually pretty fun.

That's the most frivolous among songs about marriage-weathering trials ("Wanted"), lamenting a lost friend ("You Leave No Shadow"), and the conflict between lifelong dreams and responsibilities ("The Ball Game"). You really have to admire how Osenga weaves together stories about a bank robbery, an estranged brother, and a coffin maker in "The Blessing Curse" for a meaningful piece about appreciating the life we have through Christ. And the heavenward-focused "Swing Wide the Glimmering Gates" is one of the finest Osenga has written since The Normals. It's a successful experiment, but don't take my word for it. DownloadLetters risk free, and, if you enjoy it, send Osenga a donation as suggested.

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