Pretty Little Stranger is the Vanguard debut from premier vocalist and songwriter Joan Osborne. Recorded in Nashville and produced by Grammy winner, Steve Buckingham, Pretty Little Stranger highlights the soulful sound of Joan Osborne with elements of country, blues and Americana. This 12 song collection features six original tunes written by Joan including ''Who Divided,'' ''Shake That Devil'', ''After Jane'' and the title track, and also compositions by Kris Kristofferson (''Please Don't Tell Me How The Story Ends'', some of music's finest performers lending their talents including Vince Gill on ''Time Won't Tell,'' Alison Krauss, ''Holy Waters'', Sonny Landreth playing slide guitar on ''Dead Roses'' and Rodney Crowell providing harmony vocals on his own 'When The Blue Hour Comes.'' Exquisite!.
Though Joan Osborne has referred to this as "my version of a country record," the music is likely to find more favor in coffee shops and on NPR than with honky-tonks and the Grand Ole Opry. It conjures comparisons with Rosanne Cash's artistry after her country hitmaking days, as if Osborne came to Nashville to make the sort of music that Cash left
Nashville to make. While it may not achieve the commercial success that Osborne enjoyed with her popular breakthrough, "One of Us," it's the most consistently compelling album of her career. Produced by Steve Buckingham (Dolly Parton), with harmony support from Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, and Rodney Crowell, Osborne mixes six strong originals with six choice covers, rarely overpowering the material through displays of vocal technique, as she occasionally has in the past. Much of the material deals with the aftermath of relationships (including one with a woman on "After Jane"), with results ranging from a mixture of resilience and vulnerability on the title track through the insistent groove of "Who Divided" and the eternal optimism of "Till I Get It Right." There's also a folkish rendition of the Grateful Dead's "Brokedown Palace" that Osborne makes her own, and some live-wire slide guitar from Sonny Landreth on "Dead Roses." The closest she comes to classic country is a bittersweet reading of Kris Kristofferson's "Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends," while the closing balladry of "When the Blue Hour Comes" (with co-writer Rodney Crowell on harmonies) is pure heartbreak. --Don McLeese