Joan Osborne sings Songs Of Bob Dylan

Joan Osborne

The multi-platinum and seven-time Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Joan Osborne has announced the release of her ninth studio album Songs Of Bob Dylan for September 1st through Thirty Tigers. With Songs Of Bob Dylan, Osborne dictates her own interpretation of Dylan’s catalogue from his 60s and 70s standards through to his later releases; fresh understandings that she spent time crafting as part of the Joan Osborne Sings The Songs Of Bob Dylan residencies – two critically acclaimed two-week stints at New York’s Café Carlyle in March 2016 and 2017, which were described as “magic” by the Huffington Post and delivering “No-nonsense Dylan” by the New York Times. After a long period away from the UK, Osborne showcased the album at a sold-out Union Chapel in April – earning a standing ovation in the process. Inline with the album’s announcement, Osborne is releasing ‘High Water’.

Making Songs Of Bob Dylan sprung from an idea Osborne had been toying with for some years: to record a series of Songbook albums, akin to Ella Fitzgerald’s eight-album series where the jazz singer interpreted the songs of Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, and others classic American Songbook writers. “I always thought it would be really interesting to update that idea and do something similar myself,” Osborne says. So when she received the call from Café Carlyle, an intimate Upper East Side institution known for headlining performances by legendary interpretive singers like Judy Collins and the late Bobby Short, Osborne thought it might be the perfect venue to test it out. “I chose to start with Bob Dylan because of his stature as a writer,” she says. “And also because he has so many incredible songs. I’d never run out of ideas for different tunes to try.”

Enabled by the virtuosity of Osborne’s collaborators, guitarist Jack Petruzzelli (Patti Smith, The Fab Faux) and keyboardist Keith Cotton (Idina Menzel, Chris Cornell), who performed with her at Café Carlyle, and with whom she co-produced the album, Dylan’s songs take on varied new shapes. His rollicking, bluesy classic ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ gets a propulsive, radical makeover inspired by the song’s biblical imagery. The raucous, brass-band driven ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’ (featuring the famous line “Everybody must get stoned”) is reinvented with a smoky, slinky late-night jazz-club feel that puts an entirely fresh spin on the song. “It allowed me to take a lyric that I think has been interpreted as very jokey and about just getting wasted and reframe it in a way where it has a bit of a different meaning,” she says. ‘Quinn the Eskimo (Mighty Quinn)’, a song popularized by Manfred Mann, is subtly rearranged to bring out the gospel flavour, endowing it with a celebratory air that fully suits the song. “We’ve been opening our show with it and it’s just a wonderful ‘joyful noise’ sort of moment,” Osborne says.

On ‘Ring Them Bells’, Osborne retains the spiritual overtones of the original, though the song takes on new resonance given today’s political climate. “Oh Mercy is such a touchstone album for me,” she says. “I sang ‘Ring Them Bells’ at a couple of benefits for firefighters’ families right after 9/11 and, in that context, it was apparent how a song like that has the power to grab people’s emotions when we’re facing huge challenges. We’re living in a moment like that now, where there’s a lot of uncertainty and fear about what’s happening in the world. So it feels like the time to bring out a song like this. I’d say the same thing about ‘Masters of War.’ We need to hear the most powerful, political songs. We need to hear our great writers and poets talking about these times.”

Osborne is no stranger to interpreting songs in a wide variety of genres. In addition to releasing a string of studio albums featuring her frank, expressive original songwriting (the triple-platinum, six-time Grammy-nominated Relish, Righteous Love, Pretty Little Stranger, Little Wild One, and Love And Hate), Osborne has also made three albums of soul, R&B, and blues covers (How Sweet It Is, Breakfast In Bed, which also features originals, and the Grammy-nominated Bring It On Home). In 2003, Osborne joined the surviving members of The Grateful Dead and had the chance to sing with Dylan, their co-headliner on ‘Tears of Rage’, a song Dylan co-wrote with Richard Manuel. AllMusic has called her “the most gifted vocalist of her generation and a singer who understands the nuance of phrase, time, and elocution.”

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Artist’s website: http://www.joanosborne.com/

‘High Water (For Charley Patton)’: