Anders Osborne is music’s version of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” He seems younger every time you see him.
His frenetic work pace has not only resulted in five studio albums in the last four years, he’s also become trim and fit, and he moves around the stage with an electric guitar and the gait of an athlete. His speaking and singing voice is strong and loud.
Osborne’s appearance was rather disheveled in 2010 when he began a run of annual and semiannual appearances in the Crystal Bay Casino. He showcased his sonic masterpiece, “American Patchwork,” which featured the song “On the Road to Charlie Parker,” doubtless a loud, fuzzy reminder that he wants to take a different path that taken by the short-lived jazzman.
With a haircut, trimmed beard and confident expression of a well-prepared boxer who has entered the ring, Osborne took the Crown Room stage Thursday with his band, bassist Carl Dufrane, drummer Brady Blade and Eric McFadden, the guitar-mandolin virtuoso who joined full time two years ago. The quartet opened in reggae fashion with “Sarah Anne” from the 2013 album “Peace.” But the song morphed into a hard-grooving dual lead guitar jam with Osborne and McFadden’s shirt-sleeved and flexed tattooed arms.
The gunslingers displayed serious guns and soulful chops.
“I just turned 64,” Osborne quipped. “You don’t look a day over 87,” McFadden replied. (He’s actually 50.)
After landing in New Orleans in 1985, Osborne, a native of Norway, was considered a Euro bluesman. But he’s assimilated and morphed into an amalgamation of great American music: Bay Area jam, Delta rhythm and New Orleans spirit.
Like a sweet, hot beignet, trombonist Caleb Windsay from NOLA’s The New Breed Brass Band added to the jam on a couple of occasions.
So did Scott Pemberton, whose quartet opened the night.
After he suffered severe injuries in automobile vs. bicycle accident (Pemberton was on the bike), the guitarist from Portland can no longer wear a guitar strap. Instead, the “Timber Rocker” uses a barstool to hold his ax, which he chops from all angles. Sometimes he fingers it as if the strings are piano keys. During the song “Elbow Grease,” for a slide, he used his forearm, the edge of his hand, the palm of his hand, and the neck of Eric McFadden’s guitar with McFadden still attached to it.
From the neck up, with his long hair and a full beard, Pemberton resembles a younger Anders Osborne. During Osborne’s set, Pemberton jumped in on the song “Love is Taking Its Toll.” McFadden played mandolin while Pemberton played the Tasmanian devil out of his guitar. As Pemberton exited the stage, Osborne gave a most sincere endorsement: He shook his head and muttered, “Amazing.”
Outside, Lake Tahoe’s seemingly millionth blizzard of the year had stopped and the black sky was clear. But Osborne’s tour manager had already decided that the band would wait until morning to head to the next gig in San Francisco.
“The road’s closed and we’re going to party all night,” Osborne announced.
Osborne’s set lasted more than two hours and into the morning.
Click to see all of Larry Sabo’s photos.
ABOUT Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.
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