Anders Osborne -- American Patchwork
If I was running the universe, Anders Osborne would be in heavy rotation on WHIT, the radio station that would forcefeed you only the best, and that would be piped into your lives 23 hours per day (leaving one hour for family and dental hygiene and other important stuff; screw the 9 to 5 routine). He can play the gutbucket bluesman and hot guitar slinger, and he can play the sensitive, soulful singer/songwriter, and he’s excellent at both. His latest album American Patchwork, his first for venerable blues label Alligator Records, has predictably been released to nearly deafening silence. I don’t get it. The guy is a triple threat as a singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist, and he’s consistently overlooked.
And it’s too bad, because I defy you to find two songs as widely different and as stellar as “Darkness At The Bottom” and “Call On Me” on any album released this year. The former is a shrieking blues monster with an overamped slide-guitar hook so menacing that hardened criminals would quake in fear, and the latter is a pensive, literate acoustic love song that puts Anders in the company of sensitive folkies like Paul Simon or Jackson Browne. Mastering either genre puts you in select company. Mastering both is mind-bogglingly great.
Not every song is that good, and a couple of these tunes devolve into somewhat generic blues stomps. But those two tracks, along with a handful of highly personal, idiosyncratic reflections on addiction and the toll it takes on every aspect of life, turn this album into something very special. American Patchwork is emblematic of Osborne’s adopted city of New Orleans. It’s soulful, wildly diverse, and keenly attuned to the seductive pleasures of Bourbon Street and the rueful regrets and recriminations of the morning after. It’s thoughtful blues and raw, scorching singer/songwriter fare. It’s one of the best albums you’ve never heard.