by: Anders Osborne

Since signing to Alligator Records in 2010, Anders Osborne has assembled a truly iconic body of work that builds on the rootsy rock and blues strengths he's displayed since his debut in 1989. Despite its arresting cover image, Peace completes a trilogy of sorts that began with his embrace of harder guitar rock and acoustic fare on American Patchwork and 2012's Black Eye Galaxy. Both records depicted his struggles with resettlement after Hurricane Katrina and his drug addiction and recovery. While the excellent Three Free Amigos EP appeared between those records and this one, it was a collection Osborne simply had to cut in order to get here. Peace ties together the guitar virtuoso, the poetic songwriter, and the struggling human being trying to look at life soberly and squarely. He accomplishes it all without preaching. The title track juxtaposes his autobiography with sobriety's desire for equanimity. The music reveals the tension between them. A guitar, bass, and drum attack reminiscent of Neil Young's and Crazy Horse's, layers in drifting acoustic guitars for balance and adds a stinging solo as an exclamation point. "Windows" employs driving acoustic guitars to look back at Osborne's journey of self-discovery through the lens of various encounters with the dark side of his nature. It's underscored by hypnotic drums, the textured backing chorus of Susan Cowsill and Justin Tocket, and a snaky guitar break. "Five Bullets" is chugging, unhinged, funky hard rock with inverted grooves courtesy of whomping drums by Eric Bolivar and a humming bass throb by Carl Dufrene. A brief, psychedelic, improvisational, sonic pastiche called "Brush Up Against Me" acts as a hinge-piece, dividing the set's front and back halves. Osborne delivers the bittersweet "Sentimental Times" with a B-3, French horn, piano, and a slow, shuffling drumkit framing his electric guitar. In the narrative, he recalls the significant events in his past with a sense of wonder, and tries to make sense of them. A second melody that recalls "Whiter Shade of Pale" adds to the sense of reverie. The choogling, lyrical, "Dream Girl," the slippery, rockist reggae of "Sarah Anne," and the silvery tenderness in "My Son," are all heartfelt love songs to his family (in the same way that much of 2007's Coming Down was one to New Orleans itself). The dynamic, acoustic-electric testimonial "I'm Ready" reveals a depth of understanding of the present moment as the gateway to forever. Peace is, insofar as any record album is capable, a multi-dimensional portrait of Osborne as man and musician. It addresses the raw, often confused emotions explored on American Patchwork and Black Eye Galaxy; it also answers many of their questions, while posing new ones. ~ Thom Jurek

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