J.S. Ondara: Let Me In

Photo by Josh Cheuse “God Bless America,” the final song on J.S. Ondara’s debut album this year, sounds like the plea of a man who has broken up with a lover but would like another stab at making it work. Over the ballad-tempo fingerpicking of an acoustic guitar, the 26-year-old Kenyan immigrant croons, “Will you let me in? Or are you at capacity? Will you set me free? Are you holding onto history?” These lyrics work whether the song’s narrator is knocking on his ex-lover’s door or in line at an airport customs checkpoint. It’s not the only ambiguous song on the album, Tales Of America, where the listener is left wondering: Are Ondara’s praises and complaints directed at a woman or at a nation? “Those songs are about both,” Ondara says over the phone. “There’s a certain way I talk about the American dream, but I think of love the same way. That ties the record together. Everyone is fond of love and fond of the American dream. They’re certainly not impossible dreams, but they’re elusive. I’ve been in situations where I wonder if I’m on the wrong track, both in falling in love and coming to America. You’re…

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