Anders Osborne is on a creative tear latterly: This is his second album this year and, if you count the one with North Mississippi Allstars, his third in 18 months. And the most telling thing about Flower Box is that it’s a full-length album with only eight songs on it. His live shows are going more into free-form guitar excursions; here he brings that to the studio.
This in effect is a live album with new songs and no audience. On the opening “Different Drum,” you can hear the room ambiance and the space between the instruments, as Osborne and co-guitarist Scott Metzger take turns cutting loose. The two extended tracks (eight and nine minutes) are the closest to his live shows: “Born to Die Together” starts off as a reggae-tinged rocker before heading into the mystic—Osborne takes to a slide-guitar solo that floats and wails, as the wordless chorus vocals add a Pink Floydian feel. “Old Country” begins in a laid-back mode before Osborne steps on the wah-wah and unleashes an absolute corker of a solo, probably the most blazing one he’s yet captured.
His usual introspection isn’t gone entirely, but this album finds him in a more upbeat mood: On “Different Drum,” he’s missing his Mid-City home while coming in on a flight to Honolulu; the song’s about feeling torn between cities but finding something to love in all of them. That tune and “Old Country” bring up his Swedish roots, evincing more peace of mind than “Tracking My Roots” from a few albums back. The track that goes deepest is “It Can’t Hurt You Anymore,” sung to a woman with an unnamed trauma in her past. If his words don’t reassure her, the Neil Young–channeling guitar solo probably will.