To most people’s thinking, Joan Osborne is a one-hit wonder (1995’s “One of Us”). To people who have seen her perform, Osborne is a wonderful vocalist.
She impressed a full house Friday night at the Dakota Jazz Club with her dusky, soulful, Southern-tinged voice. It didn’t matter if she was singing the blues, R&B, jazz, pop or unrecorded new tunes. She received enthusiastic response to nearly every selection during the 75-minute performance.
For most of the set, Osborne was accompanied only by keyboardist Keith Cotton and her own acoustic guitar or tambourine. For one tune she added Funk Box (a $3.99 rhythm track iPhone app), Chris Cunningham (Cotton’s Twin Cities cousin) contributed acoustic guitar on a few numbers and opening act Willie Walker joined for a duet on Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home” (the title track of Osborne’s latest album of R&B and blues covers).
Walker, a veteran Memphis soul singer who has lived in the Twin Cities most of his life, took the first verse and that just compelled Osborne, a Louisville-raised New Yorker, to pour on the soulfulness. They traded verses and shared the choruses – and received a deserved standing ovation at song’s end.
“Man, I feel like I just took a master class,” said Osborne, 50.
She was masterful thereafter, offering a penetratingly soulful interpretation of the Grateful Dead’s “Brokedown Palace” (she toured as a Dead vocalist for a stint), Slim Harpo’s sexy boogie “Shake Your Hips,” an intensely focused “One of Us” and an encore mashup of Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey” with Emmylou Harris’ “Boulder to Birmingham.”
There were plenty of highlights earlier in the set, including her own radio favorite “St. Teresa” with its country-blues yodel ending, Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child” delivered like a Laura Nyro classic, her own gospel-funk Ray Charles sendup “Spider Web” with all its blue notes and a sexy Mexican tango new number that might be called “How You Work on Me.”
Osborne’s magic clearly worked on me and everyone else at the Dakota