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Published: 2013/10/09
by Larson Sutton

Anders Osborne

Allowing the first 45 seconds of the opening and title track of Peace to be a wash of guitar feedback and cymbals puts forward a rebellious, musical self-assurance from Anders Osborne that permeates the 11-song set. Yet, lyrically, he remains the searcher, the mourner, the reflective and reflexive songwriter that dominated 2012’s spectacular Black Eye Galaxy. Serving as almost a companion piece to that record, Peace finds Osborne again mining his personal life and community for another brilliant work.

Reunited with the recording crew at Louisiana’s Dockside Studios, Osborne co-produced the disc with Warren Riker, conspicuously stating in the liner notes that ‘no automation was used nor harmed during the mixing of this record.’ It’s too simplistic to call it a throwback. For one thing, it isn’t. The sonic clarity and attack of Osborne’s stacked and sinewy acoustic and electric guitars are rich, defined, and present, far from dated arena rock posturing. His are melodic and contemplative, driving and daring solos enhancing their stories, not diverting from them.

The stories he’s telling, sung with varying degrees of restraint and rage, range from the first-person concerns of missed opportunity on “Windows,” and the middle-age lament of “47” with its funky falsetto, to the torn headline of “Five Bullets,” a summary of the MLK New Orleans shooting and societal statement. An interesting note is “Brush Up Against Me,” a two-and-a-half minute sound collage that bridges the electricity of the album’s first five songs with its second quintet. Once again Osborne demonstrates his affinity for treating albums as complete thoughts to be heard sequentially rather than assemblages of singles.

“Sentimental Times” is a masterstroke, taking pictures of a post-Katrina neighborhood through the lens of a local, implicitly portraying the lingering hurt eight years after. The thumping “Dream Girl” and reggae/Indian inflections of “Sarah Anne” fulfill the romantic pursuit quota with dashes of understated orchestration, and exemplify a mostly quiet second half. “I’m Ready” is a declarative, candid paean, not unlike much of the collection’s content, closing with a drifting, infectious “My Son.”

The four releases Osborne has recorded for Alligator Records, three LPs and one EP over the past three years, have been among the sharpest of his career. He’s tapped into an energy and inspiration that coupled with a constant touring schedule has kept him pressing, pushing the boundaries of his style and sound. It’s also made for some of the most entertaining, engaging, and adventurous records in modern rock music. This is another must-own Anders Osborne album.

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