Anders Osborne landed in New Orleans in 1990, and in the 20+ years since, he’s become such an integral part of the city that it’s hard to believe that he isn’t a native-born Louisianan. Osborne’s musical style – a mix of rock, blues, soul, and funk – fits New Orleans’ musical landscape like a glove, and over the course of several albums for various independent labels, culminating in his acclaimed 2010 Alligator Records debut American Patchwork, Osborne’s skills as a songwriter have matured to match his six-string talents.
With the life-affirming, cathartic screed that is Black Eye Galaxy, however, Osborne has delivered a genre-crossing masterwork that is both as subtle as a feather dancing on the wind and as devastating as a bulldozer in a china shop. At its core, Black Eye Galaxy is a deeply spiritual collection, and while it’s unlikely that you’ve ever heard gospel music with instrumentation that cuts this deep, or vocals as tortured, the Holy Spirit nevertheless runs throughout the album like a coil of barbed wire.
Black Eye Galaxy opens with the dirge-like “Send Me A Friend,” a lamentation on the bleakness of addiction, Osborne’s howling vocals underlined by screaming guitars and plodding rhythms joined by bursts of percussion. In a similar vein, the introspective “Mind of A Junkie” offers up jazzy fretwork alongside Osborne’s heartbreaking, pleading vocals in what is essentially a musical prayer. The powerful “Black Tar” is a dark performance with a hard-rock heart and a blues music soul, Osborne’s slightly-echoed vocals a cry for salvation from the depths of a deep, seemingly bottomless hole.
The title track provides the creative heartbeat of the album; ostensibly a 1990s-styled ballad, it unfolds into an eleven-minute instrumental showcase blending blues, rock, and jazz into a riveting ‘70s-era psychedelic sojourn. The final track, “Higher Ground,” brings peace to the album’s protagonist, the song a joyful hymn to the redemptive power of love. With Black Eye Galaxy, Osborne shares his own personal journey out of the heart of darkness, masterfully jumping from blues to rock to jazz and back again in creating a work of art that redefines the meaning of the blues. (Alligator Records, released 2012)
Review originally published by Blues Revue magazine
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