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Gates 2:30pm / Show 4:00pm

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Joan Osborne

 

On her tenth studio album, the masterful Trouble and Strife, Joan Osborne has issued a clarion call. With stunning vocals, a diverse range of sonics, and incisive lyrics, this deeply engaging collection of new original songs is her response to “the crazy, chaotic times we’re living in,” she says, and “a recognition of the important role music has to play in this moment. Music has a unique ability to re-energize people and allow us to continue to hang on to that sense of joy of being alive.”

Since she broke through 25 years ago with the multi-platinum Relish and its touchstone mega-smash “One of Us,” the seven-time Grammy nominee has never played it safe. Osborne has followed her restless musical heart, exploring a diverse range of genres: pop rock, soul, R&B, blues, roots rock, gospel, funk, and country – all of which can be heard on Trouble and Strife, along with the Western side of C&W and a touch of glam and disco. “For a lot of the record, we were going for a ‘70s AM radio vibe,” says Osborne. Asforthelyrics,thesongs“arethemostpoliticalI’veeverwritten,”sheconveys of her first album of originals since 2014’s confessional Love and Hate. Osborne also produced Trouble and Strife, primarily recorded in her basement studio in Brooklyn and released on the label she founded in 1991, Womanly Hips.

Tackling serious subject matter in her writing while crafting music to “uplift,” Osborne assembled “a great live band” (including several musicians who played on her acclaimed last album, Songs of Bob Dylan): guitarists Jack Petruzzelli, Nels Cline, and Andrew Carillo, keyboardist Keith Cotton, bassist Richard Hammond and drummer Aaron Comess. For vocal harmonies, she enlisted exquisite vocalists Catherine Russell, Ada Dyer, Martha Redbone and Audrey Martells, whom she’s “had the great privilege to work with over many years.” The result is a Trojan horse of a record – music that is energizing, melodic, and hummable, with lyrics that call out the corrupt, the despicable and the destructive.

Roots-rockin’ opener “Take It Any Way I Can Get It” inspires with the mandate “I’m still survivin’/I got to be dancin’”, propelled by a joyous gospel-tinged vocal attack backed by Wurlitzer and Southern-style intertwined guitars that dare you to sit still. She co-wrote the funky “Never Get Tired (of Loving You)” with Richard Hammond and her partner Keith Cotton, propelled by Cotton’s Prophet 6 synth, for her teenaged daughter: a message of stability in an uncertain world. “That song has a serious subtext,” says Osborne, but its “cool, retro flavor hopefully makes it a joyful thing.” The gorgeous ballad “Whole Wide World” finds Osborne hitting impossibly high notes, its sound inspired by the Chi-Lites; its message “is about hanging on to hope and envisioning something better for the future.” Another early ‘70’s sound infuses the super-catchy “Boy Dontcha Know”: Osborne’s purring vocals are surrounded by a Spiders from Mars-era piano and Big Star-esque Mando-guitar; its singalong lyrics look at gender nonconformity and the obstacles one faces when born female.

Abuse of power is the subject of two of the angriest songs on Trouble and Strife, with their infectious sound imbuing the songs a la a wolf in sheep’s clothing: the bluesy stomp “Hands Off,” punctuated by distinctive guitar riffs, denounces corrupt exploiters of people and the planet. “That Was A Lie,” with scornful lyrics buffeted by buoyant pop rock, castigates “those camera-ready mouthpieces for corrupt officials,” according to Osborne.

Texan Ana Maria Rea, whose family emigrated to America when she was a child, contributed spoken passages in her native tongue to the rhythmic “What’s That You Say.” “She tells the story of her family coming from Mexico City, where her father had been kidnapped, to the U.S. and how difficult that was,” says Osborne. “Her message is ‘I’m not afraid,’ and her mission is to help other people who are in the same position she was in. Ana Maria is a shining light of a person.”

Escape from a place where “there’s nothin’ left alive” drives Osborne to “Panama,” a showcase of her vocal range expressing gut-punch lyrics reminiscent of Dylan at his most vitriolic. But it is the Western-flavored title track that Osborne points to as the song most inspired by her “Dylanology” concerts that began in 2016 and led to her 2018 covers album, “If you spend that intensive time living with his songs, I think it just rubs off on you,” Osborne admits. “’Trouble and Strife’ betrays the Dylan influence the most because of the odd characters coming in and out of these absurd situations (much like the ones we find ourselves in today).”

Amy Helm

 

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Amy Helm’s third album, What the Flood Leaves Behind, is her most autobiographical yet, both in content and creation. Due out June 18th via Renew Records/BMG, these 10 songs represent a gathering of ideas and experiences, friends and collaborators. Yet, the album also marks a landing — a pause for the traveling musician and mother of two young boys who was seeking clarity in her calling and career.

After making multiple albums and performing in far-flung places, Helm returned home to Woodstock’s Levon Helm Studios just before the pandemic to record What the Flood Leaves Behind and reclaim a sense of self.

“Going back to the place where I learned so much about how to express music, how to hold myself in music, how to listen to music,” she begins, “it was humbling in a funny way. I could see clearly where I came from and where I am now in my life. I was singing from a different place now and for a different reason.”

An impressive group of friends and collaborators joins Helm on What the Flood Leaves Behind. With musical polyglot Josh Kaufman (whose credits range from Taylor Swift’s Folklore to the Grammy-nominated Bonny Light Horseman) producing and contributing on piano, guitar, and mandolin, the record brings Helm’s powerful, emotive vocals to the forefront of the album.

“We tried to make it about her voice and about the musicians responding to her and not the other way around,” explains Kaufman. “I wanted her to feel like she had that freedom to be herself on the recordings and she just filled up the whole room. Her singing was coming from this deeply rooted place of family and music and wanting to convey a beauty.”

In fact, Helm considers Levon Helm Studios itself to be “the tuning fork” for the record — an ethereal, elemental component that helped her and musicians Phil Cook (keys, harmonica), Michael Libramento (bass, organ, percussion), Tony Mason (drums), Daniel Littleton (guitar), Stuart Bogie (saxophone), Jordan McLean (trumpet), and her son Lee Collins (congas) summon courage and comfort.

The songs themselves reflect Helm’s inner strength and personal growth. Some might even sound familiar: “Cotton and the Cain" is a pensive homage to those who raised her, whom she calls, “the village of brilliant and talented people who were also wrestling with the grips of addiction.” A fan favorite that previously took on many styles when performed live, the song is now buoyed by her soaring soprano atop a whirring Wurlitzer. “Are We Running Out of Love,” a freak-folk drone in the hands of Swedish guitarist and songwriter Daniel Norgren, becomes an acoustic, urgent plea. Additionally, the album features collaborations with a number of prominent and prolific songwriters in roots music like Elizabeth Ziman (Elizabeth and The Catapult), Mary Gauthier, Erin Rae, and more.

But it’s “Verse 23,” the song from which the album title is derived, that encapsulates What the Flood Leaves Behind. Written by M.C. Taylor (Hiss Golden Messenger) specifically for Helm, the song opens gently as she beckons, “Turn to Verse 23, read the words on the page.” It’s a Psalm of David that declares, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

From there, the vivid, narrative verses swell, building up to a chorus with deep resonance for Helm. She repeats back the lyrics: What the flood leaves behind is what we've got to make. “I like that reckoning,” she says, “of the good and the bad and everything in between.”

Throughout the record, Helm sings stories of life’s relentlessness. But like she extrapolates from “Verse 23,” the most productive, and often the most healing response, is to create. As a result, What the Flood Leaves Behind serves as a defiant form of self-expression, as Helm steps fully into her own light.

 
Event by
Lisa Gotschall
Age Limit
All Ages