Singer and songwriter Joan Osborne is no stranger to covering vintage soul, R&B, and blues. She did so on 2002's How Sweet It Is and 2007's Breakfast in Bed, and in the documentary film Standing in the Shadows of Motown. Osborne has also flexed her muscles as a producer for the Holmes Brothers, capturing their live vibe better than anyone else. For Bring It on Home, Osborne -- with co-producer Jack Petruzzelli, her road band, a horn section, and the Holmes Brothers on backing vocals -- turns in the rawest, most kinetic moment in her recording career, digging into the very wellspring of soul, blues, and R&B. The material is stellar, beginning with Ashford & Simpson's Ray Charles' vehicle, "I Don't Need No Doctor." She grinds deeply into its grain, with drummer Aaron Comess' popping breaks. Jimmy Vivino's horn chart is clean but aggressive. The title track, defined by Sonny Boy Williamson, is given a sultry reading. Osborne's restraint is airy but defined; the listener can feel tension smoldering underneath. Barbecue Bob Pomeroy's harmonica is a brilliant counterpart, releasing steam from what's roiling underneath her voice. The choice of the obscure "Roll Like a Big Wheel," by Olive Brown is a burning R&B shouter, with smokin' harmonica and horns; Osborne's voice rises above the fray and locks the groove down tight. Ike Turner's "Game of Love" -- written specifically for Tina -- is a grimy, funky, nasty, strutting feminist anthem in Osborne's version; its meaning (and irony) never more clear. Her raucous transformation of John Mayall's "Broken Wing" is a revelation. Allen Toussaint's '70s-era funky reggae "Shoorah! Shoorah!" is a delightful curveball here, and features the author on piano. Osborne's read of Slim Harpo's "Shake Your Hips" comes right from the blues; it's righteous. She burns on Muddy Waters' "I Want to Be Loved," which, in her voice, is more demand than request. The nakedness in her vocal in Bill Withers' "Same Love That Made Me Laugh" reveals the layers in its meaning. Her understated take on Otis Redding's "Champagne and Wine" is gorgeous, with a distorted slide guitar bearing witness to the subtle nuances in Osborne's employs that make plain the desire in the lyric. Ultimately, there isn't a performance here that isn't drenched with passion and a stylist's invention. This isn't a reverential recording; it's authoritative; she makes these songs her own. Bring It on Home carries Osborne's mature voice in way that's never been heard from her before. Her abilities as an interpretive singer prove her an extension of these traditions, not merely a torch bearer for them.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek