Every review of an album from Joan Osborne will reference her one big hit, “One of Us,” with its philosophical ‘what if’ question of the plight of mankind. I mention this simply because Joan Osborne’s musical output has a tendency to shift. With her latest, Pretty Little Strangers, she moves into the hot Country territory in the search for that next hit. The genre is so hot that even John Waite, a rock singer who enjoyed a Babies stint and short solo success even finds a stroll in the Country charts a satisfying one.
On Pretty Little Strangers, Joan Osborne puts together an album of covers and originals, splitting the two equally. Much of Pretty Little Strangers is country, with some in the blues style. Her “country” voice is pretty good, which helps to lend credibility to the set. Her bluesy cover of Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter’s “Brokedown Palace” is satisfying enough with good musicianship to carry the song to better than good. Her single from the album, “Who Divided” certainly has the country affection with catchy choruses down pat. On this lively country/pop tune, she sings, “…who divided up the days into hours, the hours into minutes, how could they really be that smart? Who divided up the minutes into seconds, they must have had a broken heart…,” making for good CM radio.
She covers Kris Kristofferson’s “Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends,” with some serious traditional country flavour, dispensing with the current trend of country pop. Other traditional sounding country tunes include the Beth Nielson Chapman/Harland Howard song, “Time Won’t Tell,” and “Til I Get It Right.”
Pretty Little Stranger is Joan Osborne’s venture into country music. Her next may yield something entirely different but for now, Prettty Little Stranger works well enough.