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Joan Osborne

Pretty Little Stranger – 2006 (Vanguard)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by Joan Osborne

Two years after she released *How Sweet It Is," a collection of (mainly) classic soul covers, Joan Osborne has relocated, musically speaking, to different environs - Nashville, maybe, or southern California. Her new album simultaneously displays a contemporary, even radio-friendly, country sheen and a distinct SoCal country-rock vibe, with Osborne herself (backed by a bevy of Nashville Cats) sounding for all the world like she's channeling Linda Ronstadt and one of Ronstadt's latter-day avatars, Trisha Yearwood.

Osborne mixes a handful of strong originals, among them the soulful locomotion of "Who Divided," the classic country-rock of "Dead Roses" (which features some searing slide work from Sonny Landreth) and the forlorn "After Jane," with distinctive takes on Kristofferson's "Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends," the Tammy Wynette standard "Till I Get It Right" and an old Rodney Crowell song, "When the Blue Hour Comes."

If this is a gone-country one-off on Osborne's part, it's a complete success; if she intends to stick around the neighborhood, it'll be interesting to see what she comes up with next.