Anders Osborne takes Carbondale stage
October 27, 2011
CARBONDALE – Anders Osborne is 10 albums and 22 years into his music career, and his songs still seem to have an overall theme of finding oneself. “Acapulco,” a song from Osborne’s latest album, last year’s “American Patchwork,” is about going away and creating an entirely new identity: “Leave no trace of who I’ve been … I’ll change my clothes and change my name,” he sings. “Echoes of My Sins” opens with the line, “I have searched for the golden truth,” and “Got Your Heart” speaks about finding salvation in someone who will take care of him: “I’m a-come and get you / Put your troubles down.”
“It’s a search for finding your place in the world,” the 45-year-old Osborne said from a tour stop in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
That quest may be yielding some results. By the end of “Echoes of My Sins,” there is the hint that Osborne has gotten some hold of that “golden truth,” in listening to church bells and the voices of angels. He adds that his wife has been a “big source” of his songwriting of late, and assuming she is the subject of the “American Patchwork” finale “Call on Me,” which features the line, “I can’t wait to hear you say my name,” she is a big source of comfort as well.
Osborne traces some of that unsettled feeling to his battles with addiction. “As I’ve struggled with drugs and alcohol, a lot of that stuff has been involved in my songwriting,” he said, adding that he has been clean for years.
In geographical terms, however, few people have found their place as definitively as Osborne has: In musical style, personality, the accent of his speaking voice, Osborne seems to have been sculpted by New Orleans.
Osborne isn’t a native of the city, or even of the U.S.; he was born and raised in Sweden. He appears to have embraced New Orleans culture in a way that only someone born elsewhere can. He had heard much about the city from a grandfather, who traveled much and spent time in Louisiana. As a teenager, after wandering through Europe and Africa, Osborne found what one could call his golden musical truth, in the voices and playing of New Orleans icons.
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“It’s the lineage, the passing down of the music,” Osborne said of what gives New Orleans its uniquely strong musical heritage. “When I was 18, 19, I’d go listen to my mentors – George Porter, Dr. John and those guys – and eventually they let you sit in and play with them and they let you study, like they studied with their elders, like Allen Toussaint. It’s a pretty clear lineage, going back to the 19th century, maybe even earlier.”
Osborne’s early music came out of a soul-rock vein; the early album “Break the Chain,” from 1993, evoked a somewhat more melodic Van Morrison. But New Orleans got deeper into his veins, and the 1998 album “Live at Tipitina’s” recorded at the most legendary of New Orleans venues, was the essence of the city’s looseness and greasy funk. Among the players was Kirk Joseph, whose sousaphone, substituting for the standard bass guitar, would become a frequent trademark of Osborne’s sound. He went on to collaborate with the likes of Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Tab Benoit and members of the subdudes and the Radiators – Louisiana icons all.
But New Orleans didn’t hem Osborne in; it gave him a wealth of styles to explore. The 2002 album “Bury the Hatchet,” recorded with the Mardi Gras Indian chief Boudreaux, dove deep into old New Orleans, with takes on tunes like “Junko Partner” and “Meet the Boyz on the Battlefront.” He has become a songwriter for hire, penning Tim McGraw’s country hit “Watch the Wind Blow By,” and co-writing with Keb’ Mo’. His current tour features dates that have him collaborating with saxophonist Karl Denson, playing the Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” album.
Recently, Osborne has turned in a grittier direction, with his slide guitar getting more emphasis.
“That’s partially because I started playing power trios for awhile, and you have to play more guitar to fill it out,” he said, adding that Stanton Moore, the drummer for New Orleans band Galactic and the co-producer of “American Patchwork,” pushed him to use his guitar skills more. “And live, it’s evolved into a little more grit and rock ‘n’ roll.”
Local listeners can expect much of that: Osborne appears at 8 p.m. at PAC3 in Carbondale, in a trio with bassist Carl Dufrene and drummer Eric Bolivar.