Tuesday, June 15, 2010

American Patchwork reviewed by David Stine

American Patchwork
Anders Osborne
Alligator Records
10 tracks/44:11 min.

Because Anders Osborne, the crazy Swedish transplant to New Orleans sometimes puts on a slide to play guitar, he ends up being categorized as a blues musician. But even with Alligator’s clout behind him, Osborne is hard to classify or pigeonhole. Like New Orleans itself, Osborne’ s maiden Alligator release is a molten stew of blues, R&B, rock, and New Orleans soul. To me it’s maybe Osborne’s most accessible and still quirky release to date. The title aptly point out that this is, indeed an patchwork. The deep roux under most of the songs is a Hammond B3 organ and bass pedal accompaniment. Osborne employs a lot of mushy, fuzz-infused guitar as well. Yet everything is well-employed to convey the angst not-so-well hidden here. American Patchwork contains songs about sin and redemption, regret and joy, the loneliness of the road, the loss of a friend and escape. He does, indeed lay some slide work over top of the occasional song not so much to “solo” as to add a second voice.

Patchwork kicks off with “On The Road To Charlie Parker,“ our introduction to the heavy B3 work and fuzzy guitar work. Osborne’s high voice is well anchored by instrumentation and production throughout this CD. “Echoes Of My Sins” continues in a similar vein. Guitar freaks don’t shy away here. There are lots of examples of Osborne’s I-never-would-have-guessed-that playing style. Song three, “Got Your Heart” is reggae type song that conveys the message that it’s OK to love, I’ve got your heart--it’s safe. Song four, “Killing Each Other,” however, snaps you back into the reality of what strong opinions can do to relationships, both personal, professional, and political. “Acapulco” is the first of Osborne’s “escape” songs and begins in a somewhat Beatles-meets-Dylan way. “Darkness At The Bottom” might give a hint as to what Osborne wants to escape. Osborne adds his scariest guitar solo of the disc to this song. “Standing With Angles” is his mostly acoustic guitar tribute to his friend Christopher Carter. Again, so as to not be TOO comfortable, Osborne throw in a weird coda at the end of the song. Ever been too much in love? Try a dose of “Love Is Taking Its Toll,“ song 8. With lines like “I’m lovesick and sick of love too/I hold on to soon and maybe/I wish I was sick of you” this might not be the best love song to play for your significant other. “Meet Me In New Mexico” is Osborne’s other “escape” song, and like “Acapulco” finds Osborne longing to sunnier and simpler climes. The CD ends with “Call On Me,” a quieter, mostly acoustic guitar lament about missing those at home while on the road.

Quirky and keen and buyable is American Patchwork. To me, it’s the best thing Anders Osborne has done. I might not be blues but it’s a great CD from song one to the end. New Orleans has so many musical elements, that it sometimes takes an artist awhile to find his or her voice in the gumbo of influence. I think Anders Osborne has found his. VERY highly recommended.

Reviewed by David Stine

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