Anders Osborne has two distinct musical personalities: one is a blistering, unhinged slide guitar bluesman inextricably linked to his adopted home of New Orleans; the other is a literate, poignant singer/songwriter. He has only balanced them once before, on 2001’s brilliant Ash Wednesday Blues. The rest of his records, fine as they are, have leaned more heavily on one side or the other. American Patchwork, Osborne’s debut for Alligator, finds that balance again, but goes deeper, wider. His songwriting has reached an entirely new skill level, no matter the manner -- or volume -- he chooses to display it. Produced by Stanton Moore (Galactic), Osborne, and Pepper Keenan, it features only the guitarist, Moore’s drum kit, and the great Robert Walter on keyboards. American Patchwork is a journey of hope but the road there is often rough, rowdy, personally treacherous, and deeply emotional. It opens with a cacophonous roar inside the heart of darkness. “On the Road to Charlie Parker” is a song about heroin’s ability to reduce genius to raw junkie need, a personal reminder spoken in a mirror, and a word of warning to others. Osborne’s guitar is maniacally distorted against Moore’s thundering crack and Walter's wailing B-3, but it grooves seductively. “Echoes of My Sins” is a distinctly N.O. shuffle as Osborne offers confession and an individual brand of deliverance. It's a rock melody with dynamic reflex of gospel; the rhythm comes from reggae and Crescent City R&B. “Killing Each Other” is a funked-up rocker about the horror of violence -- physical and emotional. On "Acapulco," Osborne’s slide sings as sweetly as his voice; it longs for a fresh start somewhere else; it’s a country song soaked in the loneliness of life's regrets. “Darkness at the Bottom," a thrashing blues screamer, would not have been out of place on Chris Whitley's Din of Ecstasy -- in the red and soulful. “Standing with the Angels” is a rock elegy for a fallen friend, more poetic and moving than anything Osborne’s written. “Love Is Taking Its Toll” is the dirtiest, nastiest, most distorted blues here, its lyric poignant, its sentiment obvious, and its volume louder than God. The set winds down with the shimmering, Caribbean-inflected “Meet Me in New Mexico,” one of two beautifully written love songs here. “Call on Me” is the album’s lone acoustic number. It longs for home and the beloved so badly, it aches. American Patchwork testifies that self-destruction, violence, and selfishness can all be transformed; that life, however damaged, wounded, or even wrecked, is still precious and full of possibility. These songs are metaphors; they're personal in nature, but they extend beyond the rebirth and redemption of an individual to a city, a society, and hopefully a nation.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek