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Artist: Caedmon's Call
Label: INO Records
Length: 12 tracks/ 44 minutes

Overdressed  is special, and not just because Derek Webb is back in the band, at least for the making of this album.  This is the album where Caedmon's Call proves that they can follow up their previous best release, Share the Well, with something other than a disappointing worship sequel.  This is the album where Andrew Osenga really carves his place into the band, writing and singing some of the strongest songs on the album.  And this is also the first album where we see Caedmon's Call really returning to their roots with a refined result.

Though Derek Webb's return makes this an eight piece outfit with four lead singers, this is not merely twelve songs divided between four singers at three songs apiece ­ rather, they fit whose voice works best with the particular feel of the song, and of course weave in some very nice vocal harmonies and interplay inside the framework of the songwriting.

There are some wonderful moments of subtle melody and little tucked away nooks of sound and production in the songs.  They show restraint, for the most part, in their usual folk-style percussion, allowing the bulk of the material to breathe and the melodies to stand on their own.  The appeal to the songwriting here is not in big hooks or overproduced effects, but in the way the band mildly piques your interest with a friendly tune, then catches you outright with a sudden, beautiful sound or a lyric that hits right home.  Everything about this album is friendly and inviting.  Even the less interesting songs work in their own way as breaks between the greater material, and at least as a whole the album avoids blandness and cliché.  This is an album aimed at a CCM audience from a band who sows in little ways to make it just that much more than a typical CCM album. 

In a way, Overdressed feels like comfort food.  It has a simple theme that feels familiar, but very welcoming ­ we put on so much to impress others and ourselves, but thereís no need to dress up or act a part to impress God.  Itís an album that encourages the listener to be themselves, to recognize their faults, but not to dwell on them.  Instead, let grace work its way in.  And as for Caedmonís Call, they reveal genuine ability and surprising subtlety here, making an album not so much about great songs but more about great moments throughout a variety of songs in a folk-pop style they are already well known for.  Overdressed is an affectionate and warm-hearted release from a band that is welcome to stick around for many more years.

Jonathan Avants 9/19/07

Caedmon's Call notes the return of Derek Webb on their latest album, Overdressed .  With the talents of Andrew Osenga, Webb and Sandra McCracken, one would expect a disc full of well-crafted songs, complete with harmonies and lyrics that challenge the listener's heart, right? 

Not so fast.  The old adage that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" proves that every rule has its exception on this disc.   Andrew Osenga and Randall Goodgame composed most of the songs for this album, and Osenga harmonizes well with Webb, but something is missing.  The few songs not composed by Osenga feel like solo efforts left over from other projects, especially Webb's "Trouble", which sounds like an FFH tune without the female vocals.

"Sacred" and "Love Grows Love" share the same guitar riff, which is very similar to that of Indigo Girls' "Hammer and a Nail." "Expectations" is a departure from the norm, almost Sufjan Stevens-like in its sound, possibly early Simon and Garfunkel.   

The best of the songs here are "Start Again," which ends the disc, and "Share in the Blame," a McCracken penned track that talks about dealing with problems rather than worrying about their genesis.   Musically and vocally, it is a lot like The Band's "Take a Load Off."  

Adult contemporary radio listeners will disagree with almost everything I've written here.   The slower acoustic harmonies of Caedmon's Call (to me) have always come across better live than recorded.  I much prefer Derek Webb's solo efforts, or the work all of these artists put in on Your King Has Come, a Christmas record from a few years ago.  Sometimes a record can sound too polished, you know? Maybe the production here is what is Overdressed Ė itt's hard to tell.

Brian A. Smith

21 October 2007


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