Joan Osborne belongs to the same generation of alternative female performers as
Ani DiFranco and Tori Amos.
Originally from Kentucky, Osborne became a staple of New York's anti-folk
movement, as documented by the live recording
Soul Show (Womanly Lips, 1991). Osborne has a Janis Joplin obsession
(see Son of a Preacher Man) but already displays Carole King-ian skills
in Crazy Baby and Match Burn Twice.
The album also contained early versions of Fingerprints,
4 Camels, Get Up Jack, that map a territory shared with both
Melissa Etheridge and
Blue Million Miles (Womanly Hips, 1993) is a three song EP:
His Eyes are a Blue Million Miles, Billie Listens and
What You Gonna Do.
Early Recordings (1996) summarizes these records.
Little prepared the world for Relish (BMG, 1995), the album that
turned her into an overnight sensation. The songs were mostly arranged and
played by veteran sessionmen
(guitarist Eric Bazilian of the Hooters,
bassist Mark Egan, keyboardist Rob Hyman, drummer Andy Kravitz).
One Of Us,
St. Teresa, Right Hand Man (that quotes Captain Beefheart),
Spider Web are mature and sophisticated, bluesy (and almost sacred)
compositions that recall Carole King and Joni Mitchell.
Despite the huge hit One Of Us, it took five years for OSborne to
make a new album, Righteous Love (Interscope, 2000).
Both the singer and the songwriter in her had changed quite dramatically,
the former absorbing the phrasing of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and the latter
adapting her blues to Eastern and Celtic traditions. Songs such as
Running Out of Time (spiced with the sitar), Safety in Numbers,
Grand Illusion, If I Was Your Man sound like
spiritual hymns even if they are grounded in women's daily experiences.
Osborne's talent for rhythm and blues and/or pop ballads in intact in
Angel Face, Righteous Love, Hurricane,
Baby Love, but her heart seems to have flown way East while she is
still trying to sing to a Western audience.
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