On Songs of Bob Dylan, Joan Osborne unleashes her sizable gifts as a vocalist and interpreter upon The Bard’s celebrated body of works. With performances honed by the time Osborne spent polishing them during two critically acclaimed concert series that she performed at New York City’s Café Carlyle, the seven-time Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum-selling singer/songwriter, whom The New York Times has called “a fiercely intelligent, no-nonsense singer,” winds her supple, soulful voice around Dylan’s poetic, evocative lyrics, etching gleaming new facets in them along the way.
“I try not to do a straight-up imitation of what someone else has done,” Osborne says. “Like if you’re going to sing an Otis Redding song, you’re never going to out-Otis him so you shouldn’t even try. So I always try to find some unique way into the song, and also to pick songs where the intersection between the song and my voice hits some kind of sweet spot. It was a joy being able to sing these brilliant lyrics. It’s like an actor being given a great part. You are just so excited to say these lines because they’re so powerful that it lifts you up above yourself.”
The album spans Dylan’s beloved standards from the ’60s and ’70s (Masters of War, Highway 61 Revisited, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, Buckets of Rain and Tangled Up In Blue) to some of Osborne’s favorites from his later albums, including “Dark Eyes” (from 1985’s Empire Burlesque), “Ring Them Bells” (from 1989’s Oh Mercy), “Tryin’ To Get To Heaven” (from 1997’s Time Out of Mind), and “High Water” (from 2001’s Love and Theft).
“His versions are legendary and I’m not trying to improve on them,” Osborne says. “I’m just trying to sing beautiful songs and let people hear them. It’s about trying to give a different shade of meaning to something that’s already great. I happen to think Dylan is a great singer, but I will never, in a million years, sound like him, which almost made it easier.”
“Like Bonnie Raitt, a musician to whom she has often been compared, Ms. Obsborne is a fiercely intelligent, no-nonsense singer-songwriter who is allergic to traditional pop sentimentality, though hardly devoid of feeling… She treats Mr. Dylan as fellow troubadour and roustabout, inventing the rules while traveling along an endless road. Mr. Dylan’s songs are so deeply ingrained in the culture, it’s a wonder more singers haven’t devoted entire concerts to his songs.” The New York Times