Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Anders Osborne -- Coming Down

First, the bad news: Anders Osborne’s latest album is highly derivative, and he does little more than channel early ‘70s Van Morrison. Now, the good news: Anders Osborne’s latest album is highly derivative, and he does little more than channel early ‘70s Van Morrison. Since the new Van can’t sing like the old Van, there’s something to be said for imitation, particularly when you can scat off into the mystic like this guy. There’s also something totally delightful about the Swedish ex-pat Osborne, long a resident of New Orleans, paying homage to the iconoclastic Belfast legend. Call it international chutzpah. Fortunately, he has the voice to pull it off, and, surprisingly, the songs to match.

The Big Easy musical influences that dominated Osborne’s earlier albums are toned down here, although a sousaphone still peeks through occasionally to make its presence known. What’s left are the songs, stripped down for the most part to a lean acoustic guitar, drums, and upright bass. Osborne’s seen some hard times personally, as has his adopted New Orleans, and he alternates between rueful and occasionally harrowing reminiscences of addiction, laments for his drowned city, and (to balance out the gloom) stirring odes to love, love, love, love, crazy love. “Down on Dumaine” is his version of “Cypress Avenue” – a soulful look back on a neighborhood now gone. “Oh Katrina” is the tour de force here, the hurricane personified as the age-old heartbreaker and homewrecker. It’s a song that can stand with similar statements from Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, Shawn Mullins, and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Otherwise, Osborne sings of his own wild nights and the Tupelo Honey who keeps him sane. He’s cooked up an altogether tasty gumbo of soulful blues, hard-won wisdom, and that impossibly great voice, magically conjured across the space of 35 years. “Between the hurricanes and the heartaches/My old heart is doing fine” he sings near the end of the album. As further evidence, he’s created one of the best albums of the year.

5 comments:

Darren said...

Thanks for this post, Andy. I saw Anders Osborne in a small club nearly 15 years ago and was blown away by him and his band. I was so thrilled to hear someone who so obviously idolized Lowell George as much as I did (do, actually). I haven't thought about Osborne for nearly a decade, but I'm glad to know he's still putting out solid records.

johnfrom cincinatti said...

Anders Osborne is probably the most overlooked and underapprecaited artist ( this side of Peter Case) in America. The voice, the guitar, the songs....incredible. Listen to Kayla from one of his first albums, and then listen to his latest and hear the consistency between them. I'm amazed that he hasn't become more popular

David R said...

Listening to "Down on Domaine" on the radio just now, I had to do a double-take, and check the station song listing just to make sure in WASN'T Van Morrison. What a surprise.

philip burge said...

Anders has THE most soulful voice I have ever heard for a white guy. Writes great songs too.... like Peter Case, who has no peers...Every Anders album should be like a national fucking holiday because they are sooooo good

philip burge said...

Every Anders album should be a national holiday because be is soooo good.