& & Righteous love & & & &
Five years ago, Osborne wowed us with Relish, a bluesy, edgy rant that encompassed everything from the meditative "One of Us" to the smolderingly raw "St. Teresa." It got the attention of new fans and detractors alike; she fit well into the Sheryl Crow-Tori Amos-Alanis Morissette school of confessional songwriting and singing. Some thought she fit too well. Suddenly a superstar, Osborne toured with Lilith Fair, did MTV specials and for a while looked like she'd be more than a one-hit wonder. And then, nothing. For five years. Sure, there was an album of early stuff in 1996 and talk of a new record since, but when Mercury dropped her last year, things didn't look so good.
Well, Osborne is back, with a dose of Righteous Love. Now with Interscope, Osborne's new album has a more sophisticated look and feel. Gone is the college-roommate denim jacket; in is hair pomade and a kind of Vonda Shepard sensibility. While this is good news for a lot of fans, I miss the old Osborne. The first few tracks, in fact, sound too much like background music for Ally McBeal. Things pick up with the 1976 Gary Wright ballad "Love is Alive," however, and her time spent in the Middle East studying with the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan shines on "Grand Illusion" and "If I Was Your Man." Osborne is at her best on Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love," her smoky Appalachian voice successfully erases all memory of the Garth Brooks and Billy Joel versions that preceded it.