Anders Osborne says that, when it comes to songwriting, “there’s not much to it”



By Steve Newton

Anders Osborne is not the type of singer-songwriter who’s easily categorized. The Sweden-raised, Louisiana-based bard is described in the liner notes for his 1999 Living Room CD as “a guitar wizard whose multifaceted grooves and soulful vocals evolve the link between second-line funk, roots-rock jamming, and Delta blues”. But that’s his former label, Shanachie, talkin’. The self-effacing tunesmith offers a more basic take on his music.

“There’s not much to it,” he claims, on the line from a New Orleans studio where he’s producing Burnside recording artist Clarence Bucaro. “They’re just a bunch of feelings put together with some really simple melodies.”

Twenty years ago Osborne moved to the Big Easy from his then-home in Egypt, and has so far released eight albums, most of them on the roots-oriented Shanachie imprint. His latest, last year’s Bury the Hatchet, was a collaboration with Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, a vocalist-songwriter from the Mardis Gras Indian group the Golden Eagles. The CD is a showcase for the funky, horn-laced, street-parade music of New Orleans, but it also includes a stirring rendition of Neil Young’s 1970 protest song, “Ohio”.

“It’s one of the first tunes I learned,” notes Osborne, “and I thought it was appropriate at the time to bring up something like that, because we were approaching the war [in Iraq] back then.”

Although his musical travels in Canada have taken him to Winnipeg, Quebec City, and Ottawa—where he and Boudreaux blew folks away at the Ottawa Blues Festival—Osborne has yet to make it to Vancouver. That’ll soon change, as he’s booked to play a solo show at the Media Club on Sunday (November 30), where he’ll accompany himself on acoustic and electric guitars.

“When I do these shows, I usually pick a variety of things,” Osborne says, “unless I’m promoting a specific record. And since I don’t have anything out right now, it’s just a way to keep my career alive, go play some music, make a little money, and meet some new people. I’ll just play a little bit of everything and see what happens. I hope I can keep it together.”

If Osborne comes off as a tad unsure of his musical capabilities, he shouldn’t be. Canadian blues impresario Holger Petersen—head of Stony Plain Records and host of CBC Radio’s Saturday Night Blues—calls him one of the best new writers around. Youthful guitar-wizard Jonny Lang and folk-blues ace Keb’ Mo’ have recorded his songs, and another of Osborne’s compositions, “Watch the Wind Blow”, was just released as a single by hotshot new-country artist Tim McGraw.

“You just write a bunch of stuff, and every once in a while you get lucky,” Osborne notes with an audible shrug. “Somebody else likes what you wrote too.”

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