10 Albums, 10 Days: Behold the Lamb of God

I got tagged on Facebook to do this project – share ten albums that greatly influenced my taste in music. One album per day for ten consecutive days. In theory for the Facebook version this is supposed to be without explanation… but I want to explain! So I’m going to blog the explanations here.

Yesterday I left off by saying that my Caedmon’s Call fandom led me to Andrew Osenga, who in turn led me to Andrew Peterson. Today it’s time to tell a little more of that story.

Andrew Osenga wasn’t an original member of Caedmon’s Call. He had a band called The Normals which opened for Caedmon’s on occasion. At some point after The Normals stopped making records, Andy was invited to join Caedmon’s. Once I became familiar with Andy as a member of Caedmon’s, I quickly picked up his two available solo CDs – an EP called Souvenirs and Postcards, and a full-length CD called Photographs. They quickly became favorites.

In late 2005 I caught wind (maybe on the Caedmon’s fan forum?) that Andy Osenga was coming to Iowa to play a show with Andrew Peterson at a little start-up Christian music festival on the side of a hill in Clermont, Iowa. So, my wife and I bundled up our one-year-old daughter and drove the 90 minutes up to hear them (along with Ben Shive) play a two-hour concert from a flatbed trailer on the side of the hill. It was, in retrospect, a really weird gig for them. As Peterson said at the time, “it’s the first time I’ve ever played a concert with somebody riding a cow in the background”. No joke. I was thrilled to meet them that day and a little extra happy when AO said he recognized me from the fan forum. (Did I mention I was a big fanboy?)

Andy Osenga on the left, me on the right. October 2005. We both still had hair.

But I’m telling a lot of stories and not getting to my album for today. Anyway, at that show I ran into a co-worker who was there to see Andrew Peterson play, and we visited a bit. Fast-forward a year or so and that co-worker emailed me. She was bringing Andrew Peterson and friends to town to play a concert. Would I be interested in helping out with it for the day? Well, that was a no-brainer. And that gave me my first opportunity to hear the Christmas record and tour that would become a tradition: Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God.

What can I even say about this record? It’s a concept album that tells the story of Jesus from both the Old Testament and the New, with creative songwriting, smart lyrics, beautiful melodies, amazing musicianship, and a sense of humor. Every year for 20 years now Andrew Peterson and his friends have taken this record on the road for a series of concerts between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I think I’ve been 5 times? But nothing will compare to that first time I saw it in a high school auditorium in Cedar Rapids. I’d never heard the record before I hear them play it live that night.

This record is influential to me not just for the brilliant songs, but also because of how it represents Peterson’s commitment to artistic community. He toured with the same musicians for almost all of those 20 years. They were not just co-workers but friends. Peterson would later expand the vision of that community into The Rabbit Room. But none of that would’ve happened without him nurturing those relationships on tours built around this one amazing album.

Listen to Behold the Lamb of God on YouTube.

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