If the name seems vaguely familiar, you might be remembering the giant pop smash hit of 1996, “One Of Us,” in which Joan Osborne sold America on the concept of envisioning the Deity as an ordinary Joe riding the bus trying to make His way home after a hard day’s work. The single was a bit more earnest-sounding than the rest of her material, and nothing she did thereafter came close to grabbing the public’s ear.
By 2001, Osborne had decided to quit reaching for the brass ring of stardom, and instead began concentrating on her love of American roots music. She produced Speaking In Tongues, a tour de force of blues, soul, and gospel by the Holmes Brothers. She appeared in the classic documentary film Standing In The Shadows of Motown, and toured with the Funk Brothers, the musicians who played on so many Motown hits. Osborne’s own records found her covering rock (Jimi Hendrix, the Band), soul (Sly & the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder), and country (Kris Kristofferson, Rodney Crowell, Lyle Lovett).
Joan Osborne's Bring It On Home
The obvious next move is to make a blues album, and that’s what we’ve got here in Bring It On Home, a collection of 12 songs from a wide range of blues and R&B sources. The liner notes indicate that she and co-producer/guitarist Jack Petruzzelli spent a lot of time digging up songs from each other’s record collections, looking for material that Osborne could turn into something much more than a reverential cover. If most of the winners were songs she hadn’t been familiar with before the process began, so much the better for keeping her focused on presenting her own interpretations.
Speaking of great singers from St. Louis, Osborne then tackles “Game Of Love,” a deep catalogue track from Ike and Tina Turner in the early 1970s. This soul strutting manifesto allows Osborne, like Tina, to declare that she can give as good as she gets in the two-timing scenario. John Mayall’s gorgeous and nearly forgotten “Broken Wings” gives Osborne the chance to whip up a fiercely dependant sympathy for the beaten-down love of her life, and benefits from a genuinely spine-tingling yet simple guitar line by either Petruzzelli or Andrew Carille.
If this were released on LP, it would be a good move to flip the record over here, even though only 5 of 12 songs have elapsed. That’s because “Shoorah! Shoorah!,” a gem performed originally by Betty Wright, and penned by the incomparable Allen Toussaint, sounds like it’s time to begin the party all over again. With Toussaint himself tickling the ivories in the band, Osborne has a great time with the elastic rhythms and sparkling hook-filled melody of this one.