CD Review of Little Wild One by Joan Osborne
Recommended if you like
Patti Smith, Susan Tedeschi,
Bob Dylan
Label
Plum Records/Womanly Hips Records
Joan Osborne:
Little Wild One

Reviewed by Greg M. Schwartz

S
inger/songwriter Joan Osborne has been all over the musical map this decade – she’s recorded a Nashville album and a soul album, toured with legendary Motown sidemen the Funk Brothers, and wowed Deadheads while filling in for Jerry and Pigpen as a member of the Dead and Phil Lesh & Friends. Throughout, Osborne has proven herself as one of the most diverse and soulful blues divas out there.

Little Wild One is a return to the form of Osborne’s breakthrough 1995 album, Relish. This is no accident, as the album reunites Osborne with the production and writing team she worked with on Relish, Rick Chertoff, Rob Hyman, and Eric Bazilian. The album’s no rehash, though – Osborne takes those years of varying experiences and blends them in with the sound that first brought her to national acclaim. This is the album that Osborne fans have been waiting for.

“Hallelujah in the City” kicks it off with a gospel-ish, soul-stirring tune that instantly recalls the bluesy, melodic vibe of Relish, and Osborne’s voice simply soars. “Sweeter Than the Rest” keeps things going with another mid-tempo rock tune featuring more bluesy vocals over a strong backbeat, and “Cathedrals” ups the ante with one of Osborne’s most majestic vocals ever. The tune opens with just piano and Osborne singing in what sounds like a church, with her voice ringing to the heavens. Some shimmery guitar and drums flesh things out as the song builds.

There’s a little something for everyone here: Osborne and crew bring things down on “Daddy-O,” “Meet You in the Middle” and the longing title track, but she shines just as brightly on the ballads as she does on the rockers. “Rodeo” is an upbeat tune with some great Wild West slide guitar and Osborne doing some “yippee-yai-ay, yippee yai ohh” cowgirl-type vocals that few of her peers could pull off, and “To the One I Love” offers an ethereal number featuring acoustic guitars, some funky sound effects and lyrics of devotion. “Can’t Say No” has a galloping rhythm with more shimmery guitars and an almost shamanistic vibe to some of Osborne’s vocals.

The hidden gem of the album is “Light of This World,” where Osborne shines with some catchy melodies and beautiful harmonies. The tune sounds almost like one of those traditional numbers that the Jerry Garcia Band liked to cover. It sparkles with a fresh sound and uplifting vibe as Osborne sings, “Just as long as I’m in this world, I’ll be a light of this world.” 

“Bury Me in the Battery” closes the album out with a stripped-down ode to New York City, the adopted hometown where the Kentucky native found her musical way. Osborne seemed to drift off course a bit after the breakthrough of Relish, but Little Wild One offers proof that she’s found her way back.

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