The Jazz.com Blog
August 13, 2008 · 1 comment
Ralph Miriello, a regular contributor to these pages, reports on Joan Osborne’s recent performance at the Cutting Room. Fans of Ralph’s writing should also check out his recent interview with drummer Jimmy Cobb and his review of Meddy Gerville. T.G.
Talented chanteuse of many genres, Joan Osborne, performed for a select one hundred or so WFUV patrons at the venerable Cutting Room at West 23rd Street in New York City last week. The private performance was both a warm-up for her up-coming tour to promote her new album Little Wild One, as well as a thank you to WFUV patrons for their continued support of the listener-sponsored radio station that has become of beacon of independent music in the New York City area.
On this occasion she was joined by guitarist Andrew Carillo (brother of Frank Carillo of the Bandoleros), keyboardist Keith Cotton, bassist Richard Hammond and drummer Aaron Comess. Her new CD represents a reuniting of Osborne with co-song writers/producers Rick Chertoff, Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman who last worked with her on her breakout 1995 Grammy nominated album Relish. After departing from the straight rock format for the last several years, and making reasonably successful forays into soul and country, Osborne is attempt to return to the scene of her first big success.
Standing amidst the scores of crudely painted portraits of such rock, blues and jazz legends ranging from Bob Dylan, Jagger & Bono to Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles, the mixed crowd stood for nearly one hour on the tightly packed Cutting Room floor waiting for Osborne to start. She was introduced by WFUV’s silk-throated Claudia Marshall and started without delay. The first song was “Bury Me on the Battery,” an ode to New York City from her upcoming release. The song has a strong down home sound that makes good use of Osborne’s’ soulful sounding voice, but this is not Aretha soulful but more like June Carter Cash soulful; soulful with a touch of bittersweet country in it. Her next song was a decidedly poppy sounding tune “Sweeter than the Rest,” which she delivered with consummate professionalism. The song has a memorable melody and the requisite catchy hook and is a fitting candidate for a single release, but it was too formulaic for these ears despite the obvious approval of the audience
Osborne has developed precise control over her voice and her delivery is more mature and measured. Her ability to wrench emotion out of her words is still there but the material was not strong enough for her to really demonstrate her talents. .
Her third song, “Hallelujah in the City,” is a hymn-like ode that has some resemblance to Jeff Buckley’s legendary “Hallelujah.” The song’s lyrics make reference to unfaithfulness and redemption. New York City is at once a heartless place and a comforting home with Riverside Drive, Brooklyn, Morningside Heights and Battery Park all being identified within the song in a yearning way. Osborne has an obvious attachment to the Big Apple and she sings of it with a combination of weariness and wonder. New Yorkers will identify with this song.
With “Little Wild One” Osborne played in a slow simmering way that was more soulful than the previous offerings. She also covered Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love,” which she previously recorded on her Righteous Love release of 2000.
The highlight of the night for me was her rendition of “Ladder” from her Relish release. This song embodies what Osborne does best. Her voice is an admixture of white soul and black Motown with a rock sensibility, and her voice relishes (no pun intended) this kind of material. The crowd responded accordingly.
The finale was a song entitled “Cathedrals,” which was an especially poignant work from her new release, a song that Claudia Marshall -- during a mid show impromptu interview -- found especially touching, and which Joan conceded she did not write. Osborne’s voice is one of those treasures that with the right material can really make you sit up and pay attention. She also has the ability to move a crowd in gospel-like way. With this new release, Little Wild One, some of her fan base will undoubtedly be pleased to hear her tackle more familiar sounding material. It’s a fine effort, but I have come to expect more from this talented artist.
This blog entry posted by Ralph A. Miriello.