Joan Osborne expresses ‘Love and Hate’ in new songs

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First Posted: 4/7/2014

Although she hit the Top 40 only once in more than two decades of recording, don’t call Joan Osborne a “one-hit wonder.”

Since “Relish,” her major label debut from 1995, which contained her No. 4 smash “One of Us,” Osborne has released six more studio albums, two live discs, and a holiday collection. She collaborated with the legendary Funk Brothers for the 2002 documentary “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” spent time on tour with the surviving members of the Grateful Dead (when they regrouped in 2003 as The Dead), and has shared stages with the likes of Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Emmylou Harris, Luciano Pavarotti, and the Chieftains. For the past few years, she has toured and recorded with Trigger Hippy, which also includes rising Americana star Jackie Greene and Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman, and has been nominated for seven Grammy awards.

Osborne’s latest album, “Love and Hate,” hit stores yesterday, just before she visits the F.M. Kirby Center tonight as part of the “Live from the Chandelier Lobby” series with her trio.

“I have been doing duo and trio shows a lot over the last handful of years,” Osborne said. “They keep us on our toes as musicians; there’s nowhere to hide when it’s just you and one or two others.

“We have been getting very positive feedback (from these shows),” she continued. “We breathe new life into the old songs, and the audience gets to reconnect with them in an intimate way.”

Osborne said her new album has been in the works for seven years (she released two others and toured behind them since this one was started), and it didn’t really turn out the way she and co-producer/guitarist Jack Petruzzelli first envisioned it.

“We started out with an idea of something pastoral and lush like Van Morrison’s ‘Astral Weeks’ or Nick Drake’s ‘Pink Moon,’ but as we kept working on it, lyrically I found this concept of what I wanted it to be about and not just what it sounds like. Instead of trying to write lyrics to match that sound, we found sounds that would match the lyrics.

“Because both myself and Jack had a lot of other things going on, it took a while. As frustrating as it was, I feel this record may have needed the time to gestate. It needed to take time.”

Osborne said the standout tracks for her include the album’s opening track, “Where We Stand,” which she said was finished early and was used as a benchmark for the rest of the record. She also mentioned the central image of “Mongrels,” a song about two dogs fighting under the table for scraps and not realizing there’s so much more they could have had on top of the table, which she thinks is a good metaphor for a lot of relationships, and “Kitten’s Got Claws,” which is about a very dark moment in a relationship.

“But there are other songs about the lighter, more positive side of love,” she said. “Like ‘Work On Me’ – it’s like a Fred Astaire song about the tiny moments when you really feel the love,” adding that it was inspired by George Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.”

Osborne said her Kirby Center show will include a lot of the new songs plus a few from her Grammy-nominated blues album “Bring It On Home” (2012) and songs from throughout her career, including the hit that might be considered her signature song.

“If there’s one signature song that needs to be chosen, (‘One of Us’) would be a good one. I still get letters from people about what that song has meant to them, and I am very proud that it has a lot more to it than a typical, disposable pop song.

“It has a lot going for it, and I am very grateful to be associated with it.”