Anders Osborne, Peace (Alligator Records)

Anders Osborne, Peace, album cover

Peace continues the extraordinary run of work Anders Osborne has produced since joining Alligator records. American Patchwork consolidated his reputation as a great songwriter while forging a new sound that left his roots-rock past behind for a light/heavy dichotomy that contrasted fierce, electric guitar-driven hard rock pieces with thoughtful folk songs. Black Eyed Galaxy added a decidedly psychedelic touch to the mix and this year’s EP Three Free Amigos showcased the more introspective side of his songwriting.

The title of this album suggests that Osborne has reached a point where he has a reasonable perspective on his own art. One thing you don’t look for in Osborne’s work is irony, so the cover photo of a young girl intently flipping the bird doesn’t make me search for hidden meanings. Accordingly, “Windows” is a sober look back at his lost days riding with the devil; “I’m Ready,” a kind of pledge to himself to continue on the path to sobriety; “Sarah Anne,” “Dream Girl,” and “My Son” are love songs to his family. These songs, which turn on the dynamic contrast between hard rock and acoustic sounds that has become Osborne’s trademark, are not as sonically conceptual or as densely textured as on the previous two LPs; they are classic constructions with accompaniment suited to the mood of each song. The elegiac “Sentimental Times” has a dreamy, almost Procol Harum feel. The title track opens with a white noise drone that breaks to a stately guitar-driven ballad. “47” and “Five Bullets” ride taffy-pull funk backbeats, while “Let It Go” inverts that rhythm and “Windows” ratchets it up to another level. All four of those tracks are built around intense grooves cut by bassist Carl Dufrene and drummers Eric Bolivar and Brady Blade. Those grooves build terrific tension that underscore the urgency of Osborne’s lyrics and his sweeping, virtuoso guitar playing. Every gesture, every lick, every vocal nuance is perfectly placed on this masterful record, the work of a great artist at the absolute top of his game.