While writing songs for his latest release, “Buddha and the Blues,” Anders Osborne focused on distinct sense of place: Southern California.
“The idea was to connect with all the stuff I grew up on that was created in Southern California in the late ’60s and ’70s,” he says.
That included music by Jackson Browne, the Eagles, Neil Young and James Taylor, among others.
“There was a general atmosphere where rock ’n’ roll took a romantic turn and has lush harmonies,” he says. “It has a fresh approach, not necessarily a muscular approach — a romantic, breezy feel to it. It feels good; it feels familiar like a pair of blue jeans, just a little frayed.”
Osborne released “Buddha and the Blues” April 26, and he’s performing music from it this week at sets at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and at his birthday bash at The Joy Theater May 4. Osborne is a prolific songwriter, and has penned and co-written many songs, including Tim McGraw’s “Watch the Wind Blow By” and tracks on Keb’ Mo’s Grammy Award-winning blues album “Slow Down.” The guitarist’s versatility is on full display this week, as he also performs with the Foundation of Funk and Dead Feat.
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“Buddha and the Blues” was recorded in California in December 2017. Osborne was joined by drummer Chad Cromwell, who played drums and produced some tracks on his 2016 album “Flower Box.” For “Buddha,” they enlisted some top session players, some of whom recorded some of the ’70s albums Osborne had in mind. Cromwell also worked on a few records by Young.
The album also features guitarist Waddy Wachtel, who worked with Stevie Nicks, Linda Ronstadt and Keith Richards. Bassist Bob Glaub recorded with Browne and Don Henley. Keyboardist Benmont Tench was an original member of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers and worked with Bob Dylan.
Capping off the productive hiatus ahead of its 20th anniversary in September, the band was named Entertainers of the Year by the Big Easy Awards.
Osborne has called his songwriting a public diary, and some of his albums have addressed recovering from addiction and other difficult subjects. “Buddha and the Blues” sounds like Osborne is in a good place, even if the title track suggests nothing has come too easily.
“The songs are more existential than topical,” says. “It’s not about redemption or drugs or love affairs. It’s more about acceptance of ‘here it is.’ I’ve lived my life, I’m at this point and everything is great.”
Osborne will play all sorts of music in shows this week. He and Cromwell will be joined by pianist David Torkanowsky and bassist Ron Johnson at Jazz Fest’s Acura Stage at 12:25 p.m. Thursday, May 2.
At 10 p.m. Thursday at Republic NOLA, Osborne performs New Orleans rock and songs by the Grateful Dead and Little Feat in Dead Feat, an annual showcase including Little Feat members Paul Barrere and Kenny Gradney and musicians who performed with the side project bands of Grateful Dead members. Friday May 3, Osborne joins veterans of The Meters in Foundation of Funk at Saenger Theatre. At his birthday bash Saturday, May 4 at The Joy Theater, the lineup includes blues guitarist Samantha Fish, saxophonists Skerik and Brad Walker, guitarist Cris Jacobs and The Hornstars, a horn section that has backed Sturgill Simpson.
After festival dates in early summer, Osborne will go back to the recording studio. This time, he will have his home in mind.
“I’m back in New Orleans,” Osborne says about the project. “There is going to be sawdust on the floor, some grit to it. The stories will all have that.”
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