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On his second Alligator Records release, guitarist Anders Osborne takes you on a personal journey from his days as a junkie, "Mind of a Junkie", where he recounts the million ways large and small that the addiction lifestyle crushes you, to his hard won bridge back to the relationships damaged but fortunately not broken in the process, "Lean on Me/Believe In You" and "When Will I See You Again?" Musically, the trip is just as harrowing as the wild swings in mood that accompanies the life of an addict. "Mind of a Junkie" is a sonic tilt-a-whirl that starts out easy and pure before turning dark and hard. "Send Me a Friend" is a heavy, unrelenting, sonic assault that matches Osborne’s cry for a rescue from the darkness. You can almost hear the strings bleeding with his anguish. "Black Tar" is as dark as the title suggests and finds Osborne using Black Sabbath worthy riffs and distorted vocals to try to exorcise the drugs from his life as he repeats “Black Tar leave me alone/can’t you see I’m moving on”. The nearly 12 minute long title cut finds Osborne looking into the abyss and reflecting on what is and what could have been over a backdrop that recalls the mid-70’s sonic journeys of any number of art rock bands. The end of the disc plays almost like a B side with "Tracking My Roots" sounding like an exile from a Paul Simon disc, with its sing- along chorus and simple harmonica, while "Louisiana Gold" recalls the pristine elegance of the Subdudes with its light percussion and acoustic groove. "Dancing in the Wind", co-written by Little Feat’s Paul Barrere, is a Don Henley style ballad that oozes with Osborne’s satisfaction at coming out of his turmoil. Wrapping things up is "Higher Ground" which could be an ironic footnote given the troubles Osborne has endured by getting high but instead is a meditation on looking back at his troubles from a better vantage point. While there isn’t anything here that musically fits the blues mold which one might expect on an Alligator Records release, Osborne’s battles with addiction are just as compelling as any standard blues song about evil whiskey or living in hard times. It will be interesting to see if being clean will translate into more traditional, albeit less personal, blues on the next disc. Smitty

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

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