Joan Osborne

Relish

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"Relish" can be a sharp, bittersweet condiment; it can also suggest a determined gusto to live to the fullest. Combined, these two images provide a good taste of Joan Osborne's major-label debut (the live Soul Show was self-released in 1992). Grounded in blues, soul and gospel, the Kentucky native wields her gritty voice with personality and forceful presence, kind of Melissa Etheridge meets Sophie B. Hawkins with a splash of Jann Arden. Osborne's passion for life oozes from the grooves. There's an uplifting fervor to her material and delivery, as if every second, every note was being individually savored. Key track "One of Us" sets the disc's optimistic tone. It's a simple, direct statement of faith, honest and unadorned, one framed in a near-perfect chorus and delectable Neil Young-ish guitar riff. This isn't one of those sugary, superficial, goody-two-shoes Amy Grant kind of deals. "Right Hand Man" and "Let's Just Get Naked" confirm that Osborne's earthy, enlightened spirituality shares the same bed with sensuality and sexuality. Well-rounded both lyrically and musically, there's also no contradiction in this universe between "Lumina"'s thoughtful balladry and the wailing harp and acoustic slide bursting the seams of "Help Me."

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