Joan Osborne: New Album & Song!

Joan Osborne will release her eighth studio album, Love & Hate, on April 8th. After delving into rock, country and blues for her previous releases and touring with The Dead, Joan took a more personal singer-songwriter approach for her new album. You can watch the lyric video for the first single, “Work on Me,” below and stream the album in its entirety at Pandora.

Love & Hate Tracklist:

1. Where We Start
2. Work On Me
3. Mongrels
4. Train
5. Up All Night e
6. Not Too Well Acquainted
7. Thirsty For My Tears
8. Love and Hate
9. Kitten’s Got Claws
10.Secret Room
11.Keep It Underground
12.Raga

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Joan Osborne Official Site

Joan Osborne: Bring It On Home

Joan Osborne will return on March 27th with her seventh studio recording, Bring It On Home. A collection of classic blues covers, the album features songs originally made famous by Allen Toussaint (who appears on the album), Muddy Waters, Ray Charles, Otis Redding and Al Green among many others. Though she is probably best known for the pop hit “One of Us” from her studio debut Relish, Joan’s gritty voice has always been better suited to the blues – from her live NYC blues bar Early Recordings to her cover of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” on the Rosetta Tharpe tribute, Shout, Sister, Shout!. Bring It On Home finally gives Joan the opportunity to fully immerse herself in the blues and it’s a wild and very enjoyable ride.

The opener, “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” is an uptempo, brass-embellished jazz number that was originally recorded by Ray Charles. It’s definitely a fun start for this excellent album, but I personally prefer bluesier tracks like the magnificent title track.

The Sonny Boy Williamson song “Bring It On Home” is pure, sultry, vintage blues and a perfect showcase for Joan’s fierce pipes.

Her gorgeous voice is also well matched with the seductive soul ballad covers of “I Want to Be Loved” (originally by Muddy Waters) and Otis Redding’s “Champagne and Wine.”

Allen Toussaint plays piano on Joan’s peppy and delightful cover of his song, “Shoorah! Shoorah!”

The standout track is the sexy, rumbling freight train of blues-rock “Shake Your Hips,” which was apparently the result of an impromptu in-studio performance.

That fact – along with my own experiences seeing Joan Osborne in concert in the past – seems to confirm my suspicion that these songs will be spectacular live. So I suggest West Virginians catch Joan Osborne at Mountain Stage in Morgantown on April 15th.

Joan Osborne – Shake Your Hips (mp3)*

*mp3 hosted by Saguaro Road Records & posted w/ permission of artist’s PR rep

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Joan Osborne

Joan Osborne Official Site

Mountain Stage: Joan Osborne, Rachael Yamagata, The Low Anthem, Todd Burge, Johnny Staats & Robert Shafer

Last night I attended Mountain Stage‘s 25th Anniversary show featuring Joan Osborne, Rachael Yamagata, The Low Anthem, Todd Burge, and Johnny Staats & Robert Shafer. It was a remarkable show, though more for the occasion than the concert itself.

The event sold out before I could get tickets, so I have to thank Joan Osborne’s representatives for putting me on the guest list. I also think that the people who work the ticket and merchandise tables at Mountain Stage deserve a round of applause, because the crowd was huge and some ladies were being unnecessarily rude to the very nice man watching the “will call” table when I arrived.

In celebration of Mountain Stage’s 25th anniversary, The Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes” created a special black, white, and grey five-tiered cake featuring the show’s logo that was put on display in the lobby before the show. I’m not familiar with the show, but apparently one of the chefs is from WV and is related to one of the Mt. Stage band members. The audience did not get to taste the cake, but the crew were nice enough to provide punch and cookies for us to celebrate after the show.

It was quite a nostalgic evening for everyone involved. Compared to the show’s 25 years, my own experience as an audience member seems limited. But I couldn’t help but think back over my own history with the program. The first time I attended Mountain Stage was in August, 1997, when I was still in high school. Like many locals, I was introduced to the show through a good friend and wondered why I hadn’t heard of it before. The performers that night were Joan Baez, Sinead Lohan, Laura Love, Duke Robillard, and Dar Williams. I fell in love with the show then and don’t have the time or room here to recount all of the amazing performances I have seen there since then.

Some of the most memorable sets I witnessed were by Sinead Lohan, Holly Cole, Cowboy Junkies, Vic Chesnutt, Dayna Kurtz, Natalie Merchant, Kami Lyle, Saw Doctors, Fisher, a then unknown Norah Jones, Odetta, Martina McBride, Bell X1, Samoa Wilson, Zap Mama, Ani Difranco, Ana├»s Mitchell, Eleni Mandell, and Sylvie Lewis, Amy Correia (twice), Peter Mulvey and Cathie Ryan (twice), Laura Love (twice), Joan Osborne (twice), and Joan Baez (twice). The second time I saw Baez perform was for Mountain Stage’s 20th anniversary show five years ago. Joan was excellent as always, but I recall that the night was plagued with techinical difficulties. I’m happy to say that last night’s 25th anniversary concert went much more smoothly.

The show is always general admission, so I was fortunate to nab a seat just a few rows back from the stage. Host Larry Groce began by thanking several people and organizations who had helped Mountain Stage over the years, and brought a few of them out on stage. Among them were local singer George “The Earl of Elkview” Daugherty (an old friend of my husband’s), local artist Charlie Hamilton – who painted the huge, colorful painting that always adorns the stage – and the elusive broadcast engineer Francis Fisher (whose disembodied voice is heard at every Mountain Stage). Also present was Deni Bonet, former singing partner of Mountain Stage vocalist Julie Adams and one of performers at the very first Mountain Stage concert in 1983. Bonet sang with the band and performed a song of her own in the first hour of the concert. Groce also acknowledged the recent passing of Odetta, and later house pianist Bob Thompson played a special instrumental tribute to her.

Thanks to the Mountain Stage Blog, I knew before the show that local singer-songwriter Todd Burge had been called in to replace Kathy Mattea. Mattea, who was apparently one of the most frequently schedule guests on the show, had to cancel her scheduled performance due to an illness in her family. The extremely amiable Johnny Staats & Robert Shaffer went first and were a crowd pleaser. Their hyperspeed mandolin and guitar playing was impressive, though they sounded much prettier when they slowed it down. I especially enjoyed their rendition of “Sweet Georgia Brown”.

I hadn’t heard of The Low Anthem before last night, but I really like them! The trio are multi-instrumental wonders who ran around the stage exchanging instruments in between songs. Their sound is mostly very pretty, soft indie-folk, though they did play one stage rocker. I’ll have to track down their album. They’re cute as buttons, too. Next up was Todd Burge. I really hate to say anything negative about him, because he seems like the nicest guy, but this was the second time I’ve been bored by him at Mountain Stage. I did like his song “I Believe This I Believe”, but other than that….just not my thing. Overall, I found the first hour of the show lackluster and had trouble staying awake. But the second hour more than made up for it.

After some house band performances, Rachael Yamagata took the stage. I expected her smokey alto to be a highlight of the night, but I had no idea just how good she would be live. After the show, every single person I encountered was raving about Rachael’s set. She began hidden behind the piano while she sang the somber “Elephants” from her new album Elephants…Teeth Sinking Into Heart (which I can tell you now will be on my best of ’08 list) and belted out the emotional older tune “Be Be Your Love”. Then she moved to the center of the stage and blew everyone away with an astounding, chill-producing performance of “Sunday Afternoon”, during which she wailed until I thought her throat would fall out. The song was so long (I didn’t notice since her performance was so riveting) that apparently it was to be her last, but the crowd was so responsive that Groce asked her to play one more. She ended with a thunderous take of “Faster”. If there was a star of Mountain Stage’s 25th anniversary show, it was Rachael Yamagata.

Though I loved Yamagata’s music before and certainly after the show, I was mostly excited to see Joan Osborne. I’ve been a fan of Osborne since her debut Relish was first released, and I saw her perform at Mountain Stage years ago when she was promoting her How Sweet It Is album. I remembered Joan’s appearance and performance then as being funky, sexy, and vocally powerful. So it was a bit of a shock when she stepped on stage last night dressed as a school marm – high lace color, long floral print skirt. I only mention it because it was apparently symptomatic of her entire persona mellowing out over the years. Granted, she began with my least favorite song on Little Wild One (“Rodeo”) followed by an even lower key version of the album’s title track. So it may have merely been a matter of song choice or at least my own preconceptions of those particular songs. It just seemed like the spark had gone out of her or something. That is, until she hit the chorus of “Halllelujah In The City” and finally unleashed her voice. Then I finally heard and saw the Joan I knew and loved.

By the time she covered Jump Little Children‘s “Cathedrals”, all was right with the Osborne world. In my review of Joan’s album, I said “I hope I get to hear Joan sing this one live someday, because I can only imagine how much more powerful her voice will be without so much production smoothing it down.” I was absolutely right. When singing “Cathedrals” in person, Joan’s voice was gorgeous, emotive, and supernaturally strong. It was by far the best performance of the night, and what I’ll remember most about the concert. She ended with a rousing rendition of “Bury Me On The Battery”, followed by an encore of “To The One I Love”.

Everyone returned to the stage for one of the show’s better group finales, a cover of Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down”. In the post-show lobby, I met a very gracious and humble Rachael Yamagata. She seemed surprised that we all liked her performance so much, and said she would come back to Mountain Stage (I hope so!). I introduced her to the wonder of the silver sharpie (her album cover is black), a wonderful little trick I first learned of from The Rescues. I passed several members of the Mountain Stage family on my way out, but I always feel weird introducing myself as “the blog girl” so I merely waved at them.

I think the concert would’ve been better with a more significant booking like Joan Baez or Mavis Staples, and I was obviously disappointed by the first half of the show. However, in the end I was very happy with the night and it was nice to relive so many great memories I have of the venue. Here’s to another 25 (or 100) years of Mountain Stage.

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Contest: Win Joan Osborne’s New CD

Contest Closed

I have one copy of Joan Osborne’s new Little Wild One CD to give away. You can read my review of the album here, and the contest details are below.

The Prize:

1 copy of Joan Osborne’s Little Wild One CD

The Rules:

Comment to this entry with your email address. You can also email me to enter, but comments are preferred.

Note: This contest is open to everyone and anyone, but all contestants must enter with a valid email address in order to qualify. The winner of the contest will also be required to provide me with their full name, phone number, and postal address to be forward to Joan’s promo copy. Your contact information will only be used for shipping purposes.

The Deadline:

The contest will end on Friday, October 24th. The winner will be chosen at random and contacted via email.

Go now go! And tell others.

Contest Closed

Joan Osborne: Little Wild One

Joan Osborne‘s lovely new album Little Wild One will be released on September 9th. After delving into country for 2006’s Pretty Little Stranger and reaching back into retro soul for last year’s Breakfast in Bed, Osborne reunited with the producers of her brilliantly bluesy debut Relish (I also recommend her grittier Early Recordings) for the recording of the new album. The result is Osborne’s best work in years, and sure to be an enduring favorite of mine.

“Hallelujah In The City” is a softer start than I expected from the reunited Relish team, but it’s surely a pretty one and one of the stronger tracks on the album. I love the choir effect toward the end of the song, and Joan’s impressive vocal range on the chorus makes me wish she’d try a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. “Sweeter Than The Rest” is more of a pop ditty in comparison, but there’s a surprising hint of retro Carly Simon in the melody.

Joan covers Jump Little Children‘s “Cathedrals”, one of my favorite songs of all time. I prefer Osborne’s beautiful, true-to-the-original take over Heidi Talbot‘s faster tempo version. I hope I get to hear Joan sing this one live someday, because I can only imagine how much more powerful her voice will be without so much production smoothing it down. Having already seen her perform at Mountain Stage, I know for a fact that her voice is more than capable of shaking some rafters.

“Rodeo” leans back into the Pretty Little Stranger country style that isn’t my favorite fit for Joan’s throaty voice, but the moody torch song “To The One I Love” immediately points the album back in the right direction. The latter song and the album’s title track are sultry slow burners.

The lilting ballad “Daddy-O” is a refreshing original that sounds like a modernized Irish sea chantey (even my Irish hubby asked if it was a new song because he thought it “sounds Irish”), and the finale “Bury Me On The Battery” embraces that bluesy, quasi gospel tone that brings out the best in Joan’s phenomenal voice.

Joan Osborne – Hallelujah in the City (mp3 expired)

Joan Osborne Official Site
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