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Published: 2016/09/23
by Laron Sutton

Anders Osborne
Flower Box

American rock-and-roll has been a popular export for over 60 years, absorbed and reinterpreted by international brethren, from The Beatles and Eric Clapton to Neil Young and The Band. Though born and raised in Sweden, Anders Osborne found his spiritual birthplace in an American port city that, too, was responsible for the worldwide import/export of music- jazz, blues, funk, and soul; New Orleans.

This album gathers pieces from three separate sessions in the Crescent City and from many of those aforementioned genres over the past two years- a time in which Osborne recorded the last of a terrific string of records for the Alligator label and then stepped out on his own with this year’s earlier release, Spacedust and Ocean Views. Any of the eight cuts here could’ve just as easily found a spot on an earlier album, and in most cases, probably were tough calls for Osborne to leave on the shelf. Compiled here, they flow without any indication that they derive from separate dates, let alone years, and continue to exemplify Osborne’s deeply understood appreciation for American musical idioms.

But there is a twist. The opening “Different Drum,” is pure homage to Canada’s Young and Crazy Horse, who themselves ironically defined American garage rock; the crunchy, fuzzed-out guitar, the lonesome background harmonies, the inevitable driving stomp. It shows up again on “It Can’t Hurt You Anymore,” as well, playing right into Osborne’s wheelhouse of breaking vocals and untamed solos. “Fool’s Gold” is a layered psych-exercise of colliding guitar parts; low register dub lines, tremolo waves, cascading acoustic, and the Osborne overdrive. The title track chugs along nicely, sounding a bit like vintage heartland rock.

Side Two is slightly less aggressive, with “The Gospel of St. John,” a lovely ballad, and the borrowed reggae of “Born to Die Together.” Acoustic stabs mark “Old Country,” and its defiance, before riding a steady thumping beat into power rock promised land. “Strong,” the album’s closer, even has a kind-of California/Beach Boys slant if listened to at just the right angle.

Anders Osborne has always been a songwriter with a strong sense of structure, but it’s his growth as an arranger of guitars and facilitator of unfiltered emotions that has elevated his recent output to a higher plane. Flower Box may be a grab-bag of odds and ends, but laced together in this collection, they once again show Osborne to be a highly proficient student of not only the history of American music, but also a wonderfully discerning student of the students.

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