Joan Osborne – Relish
Relocating from Kentucky to the Big Apple, mixing her backwoods sensibilities with urban irreverence and bite, Joan Osborne has created a multilayered, high-powered and invigorating album. She’s been compared to Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin, a white girl singing the blues, but Sheryl Crow crossed with the Beastie Boys is just as accurate a description. She’s a singer/songwriter with retro roots, but a sound and attitude made for the alternative ’90s.
Tracks such as “Right Hand Man” and “Pensacola” feature a bluesy rhythm underneath vocals that sass and sneer. The jumpy drumming and sinewy playing owes as much to hip-hop as to any blues diva, with the variety of guitars and percussion giving an earthy sound. At times, the songs are dominated by whimsy: She asks what would happen if God was lonely like “One Of Us” (“Nobody calling the phone / Except the Pope maybe in Rome”). But the dreamscape of “Spider Web”, in which she meets a Ray Charles who is deaf, not blind, over a funky groove reminiscent of the Meters, comes off clever and twisted, not as an alterna-flavor of the month. Refreshingly, Osborne mixes it up with the lovely ballad “Crazy Baby”, showing that her off-kilter songwriting can range from playful to acutely descriptive and be emotionally unguarded and snappy all at the same time