(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – Blues- and R&B-oriented pop singer-songwriter Joan Osborne will perform works by Bob Dylan at MASS MoCA on Friday, July 7, at 8pm. The concert is in advance of Osborne’s upcoming ninth studio album, “Songs of Bob Dylan,” set for release on September 1.
Joan Osborne made a name for herself in 1995 with the success of her multi-platinum album Relish, which featured the hit single “One of Us.” The success of “One of Us” — it spent two weeks at number one, sold three million copies, and received numerous Grammy nominations — made Osborne a household name.
After spending nearly a decade collaborating with the likes of Mavis Staples, Isaac Hayes, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, and Melissa Etheridge, Osborne went on to release several more albums, including “Bring It On Home,” which received a 2013 Grammy nomination for Best Blues Album. Her style encompasses multiple genres — including soul, pop, blues, jazz, and rock — to create a rugged yet melodic sound that is “simultaneously gritty and clear, smoky and dark while bright and warm” (Soul Train).
The Bob Dylan program came about after Osborne performed an all-Dylan show while in residency in New York to great reception. Although she is no stranger to covering Dylan, it’s her first go at an in-depth revival of the material, and a successful one. The New York Times raved, “Like Bonnie Raitt, a musician to whom she has often been compared, Ms. Osborne 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.”
On the upcoming “Songs of Bob Dylan,” Osborne unleashes her sizable gifts as a vocalist and interpreter upon Dylan’s celebrated canon with performances honed by Osborne’s time spent performing “Joan Osborne Sings The Songs Of Bob Dylan,” which began with two critically acclaimed two-week residencies at New York City’s Café Carlyle in March 2016 and 2017, and now include a summer tour.
Unconstrained by any notion of trying to imitate or surpass Dylan, Osborne felt free to play with the songs’ arrangements, a process that was also enabled by the virtuosity of Osborne’s collaborators, guitarist Jack Petruzzelli (Patti Smith, The Fab Faux) and keyboardist Keith Cotton (Idina Menzel, Chris Cornell), who performed with her at Café Carlyle, and with whom she co-produced the album.
The album spans Dylan’s beloved standards from the 1960s and ’70s (“Masters of War,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” “Buckets of Rain,” “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).
Songs of Bob Dylan is a follow up to the singer’s 2014 album, “Love and Hate,” and 2012’s Grammy-nominated “Bring It On Home.” AllMusic has called her “the most gifted vocalist of her generation and a singer who understands the nuance of phrase, time, and elocution.”
The Kentucky native famously got her start performing her own songs in New York City’s downtown rock clubs, around the time that she began to rediscover Dylan’s work with “Oh Mercy.” In 2003, Osborne joined the surviving members of The Grateful Dead and had the chance to sing with Dylan, their co-headliner.
Track Listing of “Songs of Bob Dylan”
- Tangled Up in Blue
- Rainy Day Women #12 & #35
- Buckets of Rain
- Highway 61 Revisited
- Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)
- Tryin’ to Get To Heaven
- Spanish Harlem Incident
- Dark Eyes
- High Water (for Charley Patton)
- You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
- Masters Of War
- You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
- Ring Them Bells
Lickety Split, MASS MoCA’s café, serves up crisp salads, hearty soups, and lip-smacking pub fare. A full bar serves Bright Ideas Brewing beers and Berkshire Mountain Distillery spirits. Tickets are $25 for students and in advance, $35 day of, and $45 preferred. Tickets for all events are available through the MASS MoCA box office located on Marshall Street in North Adams, open 11am to 5pm every day except Tuesdays. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during box office hours or purchased online at MASS MoCA.