Saturday, 4 December 2010

Anders Osborne American Patchwork (4*)

American Patchwork

Relocating a slide guitarist from Sweden to New Orleans might seem like an extreme case of exporting coals to Newcastle, but you can argue that should the individual succeed in making a living in what must be an extremely competitive high-quality environment it probably means they're pretty damn good.

Like expat-Brit ivory merchant Jon Cleary there's no doubt that Swede Anders Osborne has pegged out a fair bit of Louisiana musical territory as his own.

He took his time getting there, having left home aged sixteen and making his way through Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the North America before settling in New Orleans twenty-five years ago.

That quarter-century has resulted in a substantial discography, and while only 2001's Ash Wednesday Blues and the following year's Bury the Hatchet collaboration with Golden Eagles Big Chief Monk Boudreaux found their way onto Hughesy's CD shelves back in the days when Fools Gold and High Class Music were going out on the local radio station's frequency. There's also a fair bit of material lurking over at eTree for anyone interested in sampling his live act.

While there may be an extensive discography, Osborne’s working in an area that isn’t that well documented in these parts, and discovering news of new releases can be a hit and miss affair.

A recent Raven and the Blues podcast alerted me to the existence of a new Osborne album, and a quick look over on iTunes added the album to a recent flurry of download activity.

And I'm glad I went. From the opening On The Road To Charlie Parker the album hits a groove that isn't 100% New Orleans, though you can pick up the Crescent City elements among the funk influences as it choogles along.

Charlie Parker, you may recall, was the legendary jazz figure whose career followed a tortuous route through various addictions until an early death after which the coroner performing the autopsy mistook his thirty-four-year-old corpse for that of a fifty-year-old. It seems that Osborne's familiar with the territory.

From there you can trace at least the outline of a story through the remaining track titles. Echoes of My Sins, Got Your Heart, Killing Each Other, Acapulco, Darkness at the Bottom, Standing with Angels, Love Is Taking Its Toll, Meet Me in New Mexico and Call on Me fill out the track list, and the listener can fill in the details of the story as Osborne sets out to distance himself from his past. It's a powerful, tightly crafted album that's definitely worth investigating.