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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 5, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 14
One of us - Joan Osborne brings blues, pop, folk, and gospel to Seattle
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One of us - Joan Osborne brings blues, pop, folk, and gospel to Seattle

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

JOAN OSBORNE
DIMITRIOU'S JAZZ ALLEY
April 18 - 21


A list of women who rock would most definitely have to include Joan Osborne. A soulful vocalist with the range to cover blues, pop, rock, folk, and a whole lot in between, her catalog stretches from 1995's widely acclaimed Relish to last year's Grammy-nominated Bring It On Home. Osborne will make her Jazz Alley debut with a four-night residency, April 18-21, accompanied by longtime collaborators The Holmes Brothers. By phone, I reached the singer-songwriter at her New York residence just before heading out for her upcoming tour. Here is what Joan Osborne shared with me inside The Music Lounge.

Rodriguez: What comes into your mind when you think of Seattle?

Osborne: What comes into my mind is going down to the ferry terminal and taking a long ferry ride on those amazing, huge old ferries. I love doing that, I love going down to the Pike Place Market and wandering around there. I love walking up those really steep hills. I love walking up that big steep hill and then getting to this flat, yard-like feel there on Broadway, and taking a stroll and seeing all the little shops and restaurants. It's so beautiful - there's so much natural beauty everywhere you go.

Rodriguez: Are your set lists going to vary for each show at the Jazz Alley?

Osborne: I'm sure we'll change things around from night to night. The shows are going to be with myself and a keyboard player, Keith Cotton, who I've worked with a lot, and also The Holmes Brothers, who are an amazing roots-blues-gospel-country band I've known for a long time. We got a lot of things that we know how to do and we have a lot more material that can fit into one set, so I'm sure we'll change it up from night to night a little bit. And we should be able to have a certain amount of spontaneity because of the fact that we have such a long relationship.

Rodriguez: How many songs from Bring It On Home will we hear during your Seattle run?

Osborne: A good handful, because the new album is a blues album and these guys, one of the things they do greatly is blues, so it's right in their wheelhouse. But they're also beautiful harmony singers and we do this amazing version of 'One of Us' that's very stripped down to a piano and me singing with them doing background harmony - it's really breathtaking. It's not just going to be a blues show. It's going to touch on a lot of different things.

Rodriguez: Will you bring back those old Joan Osborne favorites?

Osborne: Yeah, we do an amazing version of 'Spider Web' that's really funky and there's a song from the Pretty Little Stranger record that they love to do called 'Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends,' which is basically a romantic country ballad. They just have so much at their disposal that I'm able to pick and choose from throughout my career, and they breathe their particular flavor into them.

Rodriguez: My favorite Joan Osborne track is 'St. Teresa.'

Osborne: Ahh, well. We will probably do that one, for sure. That's an audience favorite and I still love to do it, so it's rare that we do a show and don't do 'St. Teresa.' There are a lot of configurations. Keith Cotton and I, the piano player, he and I have done some duets in concert, and we even have a version of it between the two of us that's very stripped-down and elemental. So we may try it in a couple of different ways in this run at the Jazz Alley.

Rodriguez: I saw you at the Paramount Theatre many years ago with G. Love and Special Sauce as the opening act. You walked out on stage waving these flashlights to a Parliament song and started the show with 'Ladder.' Is that a song that still makes it onto your set list?

Osborne: That's one we've done less, but we bring it out again every once in a while. It's one of those songs that when I was young I wrote them in much higher keys, and it's a little tougher to do that now 15 or 20 years down the line, to hit those high notes all the time. That song and [others] like 'Pensacola' can be really tough to sing, so I save those for certain nights, but I bring them out once in a while.

Rodriguez: I didn't realize you got your start in the blues clubs in New York.

Osborne: Yeah, that's really how I started to learn to sing. I had sung as a child, in chorus and things like that, but I never really thought about it as anything I would do for my line of work. But I had moved to New York and was attending film school and accidentally came upon this club where there was an open-mic night and a friend of mine dared me to go up and sing, and it happened to be an open blues jam, and that was sort of my introduction to this whole blues thing that was happening in New York at the time. I really got hooked and started coming back again and again to open mic and meeting other musicians. I became part of this community and this scene that was happening, and eventually put my own band together and started playing my own shows in the clubs.

Rodriguez: What does the rest of 2013 look like? Will there be more touring, and will you work on a new album?

Osborne: I have a new record in the works - a new batch of original songs that are all about romantic love, the light to the dark, and everything in between. We'll probably do a song or two from the new album at Jazz Alley. I've got a side-project band that is more of a rock-'n'-roll band, called Trigger Hippy, with some guys who are based out of Nashville - the drummer from the Black Crowes, Steve Gorman; a guy named Jackie Greene, who's a really talented singer-songwriter-musician from the Bay Area; and other national musicians, and we've been in the studio recording some stuff to release this coming year. I'm putting together a special Mother's Day concert in New York City, where myself and the other performers will actually be moms. It's going to be a great celebration, and it's going to raise money for some great charities that are very women-focused and mother-focused.

Rodriguez: What's changed since the last time you probably played Seattle is that Gay marriage is legal here now.

Osborne: Woo-hoo!

Rodriguez: So is pot, just to let you know.

Osborne: [laughs] OK, good to know. I probably won't be delving into either while I'm there, but glad to know it's available for everybody else.

Rodriguez: For those unfamiliar with your backup band, can you tell us more about them and anyone else who'll be sharing the stage with you?

Osborne: The band is The Holmes Brothers, who are longtime friends and collaborators of mine: Wendell [Holmes] on guitar and vocals, Sherman [Holmes] on bass and vocals, and Popsy [Dixon] on drums and vocals. They've put out many, many records on their own, and I've actually produced a couple of records that they put out. They were Americana before Americana existed. They've always played blues and gospel and country and soul together in their own very unique way. They're soulful, funny, smart, talented, and such great performers. And the other person who's going to be on stage with me is Keith Cotton. He's an incredible musician in his own right, a piano player, a keyboard player, classically trained - he went to Oberlin Conservatory - and has played jazz for many, many years and blues, rhythm & blues on the New York scene, so he's one of those guys who can do it all. It's going to be quite a combination on stage. We've done this a handful of times before and it's always a party to get all of us together.

For reservations, go to www.jazzalley.com or call (206) 441-9729.

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One of us - Joan Osborne brings blues, pop, folk, and gospel to Seattle
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