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Highlights: Joan Osborne Interprets Bob Dylan in Lebanon

  • Joan Osborne brings her interpretations of a selection of Bob Dylan songs to Lebanon Opera House on Thursday, Feb. 15. (Courtesy photograph)



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, February 08, 2018

Joan Osborne has been playing selected songs by Bob Dylan for the past couple of years, but the veteran blues-rock singer still struggles to pinpoint when and where Dylan’s work became part of her life in music.

She’s resuming her travels, both on the road and through the Dylan songbook, this week on a tour that brings her to Lebanon Opera House next Thursday night.

“His material is so much a part of the American musical fabric,” Osborne said during a recent telephone conversation. “It goes so far back in the recesses that I don’t remember when I first heard one of his songs.

“You just always knew it was there.”

As a college dropout in the early 1980s, the Kentucky-born Osborne continued, she was singing at New York City clubs “in the same neighborhood where Dylan was playing the coffeehouses. His ghost was in the streets. Any night of the week, you could catch a blues band playing blues versions of his songs; folk singers singing folk versions of his songs; rock bands taking on rock versions of his songs.”

Osborne finally met the flesh-and-blood artist in 1997, during a recording of his 1965 anthem Chimes of Freedom for the soundtrack to the NBC television movie The ’60s. By this time, Osborne was riding the crest of the wave of popular and critical success that followed her 1995 album Relish, featuring the hit single One of Us.

“We shared the same microphone during the duet,” she said. “Because he has this very restless intelligence, he changes things very quickly in the studio. We didn’t even rehearse my part. I had to match his phrasing by looking at his lips. The good thing about it was that I didn’t have time to get too nervous about it. I didn’t have the opportunity to overdo it.”

The opportunity to interpret the Dylan songbook on her own terms came almost two decades later, when the Cafe Carlyle, on New York’s Upper East Side, invited Osborne to perform a cabaret-style residency. After hesitating briefly over whose songs to take on, she remembered that Ella Fitzgerald had produced a series of albums of works of composers Fitzgerald admired, among them Cole Porter, Harold Arlen and Duke Ellington.

“It’s something I’d had on my mind for a long time,” Osborne said. “When this came along, I thought, that’s a great way to do it: Take on writers I have an affinity with.”

During the residencies at the Carlyle in 2016 and 2017, Osborne fine-tuned her approach to Dylan’s oeuvre with guitarist Jack Petruzzelli and keyboardist Keith Cotton, who ended up co-producing the ensuing recording of 13 songs on Osborne’s Womanly Hips Records label.

“You really see if things are working or not, using the performance time,” Osborne said. “You allow it to grow. It’s less like tinkering with an engine. It’s more like cultivating a living thing, allowing the branches to reach higher, further out.”

On the record and on the road — Osborne, Petruzzelli and Cotton toured Europe, the western U.S. and the Northeast after the album’s release late last summer — the trio revisited Highway 61 Revisited with what Osborne describes as “a Middle-Eastern urgency,” and Rainy Day Women #12 & 25 with “a slinky, late-night vibe that the audiences have been reacting strongly to.”

Osborne isn’t holding her breath waiting to read or hear a reaction to her interpretations from the newly-minted Nobel Prize winner.

“He’s such a monumental figure,” Osborne concluded. “I don’t have a sense that he might approve or disapprove. It’s not like this is new territory. Who knows how many people have recorded his songs in how many different ways? I didn’t worry that I was going to record some version that would offend Bob Dylan.

“He’s got other things to think about.”

Joan Osborne performs at the Lebanon Opera House next Thursday night at 7:30. For tickets ($33 to $48) and more information, visit lebanonoperahouse.org or call 603-448-0400 or drop in at the box office in City Hall.

Best Bets

The Cassotto Duo of pianist Annemieke McLane and accordionist Jeremiah McLane perform works of Bach and Bartok, as well as their own compositions, on Friday night at 7 at the United Church of Strafford. Admission at the door is by donation, with part of the proceeds benefiting the church’s Manheim Fund for the sacred arts.

The Old Church Theater stages two cabaret sessions of theater, music and storytelling this weekend, starting Friday night at 7 at Corinth’s Cookeville Town Hall. And on Saturday night at 7, Court Street Arts hosts the variety show at Alumni Hall in Haverhill. Admission to each cabaret is by donation to the theater company’s fund to restore its namesake venue in Bradford, Vt. To learn more, visit oldchurchtheater.org

The musical homage Kindness and Cruelty: Willa Cather in Jaffrey, pulls into the First Congregational Church of Lebanon on Saturday night at 7. Admission is $10. In advance of an off-Broadway run, playwright Tom Dunn and pianist Will Ogmundson, a resident of New London, have been staging the show around central New Hampshire. The tour of the musical, which follows the author of the novel My Antonia during a summer spent in the Monadnock region in the 1930s, ends on Feb. 17, with a 7 p.m. staging at Whipple Hall in New London; tickets there cost $12.

Roots singer-songwriter Kali Stoddard Imari returns to his native Vermont on Sunday with a 4 p.m. concert at West Newbury Hall. For tickets ($20) and more information, visit rockfarmer.com or call 802-866-3309.

Fresh off collecting a Grammy Award for his album Take Me to the Alley, jazz singer-songwriter Gregory Porter performs at Dartmouth College’s Spaulding Auditorium in Hanover on Tuesday night at 7. For tickets ($17 to $30) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

Looking Ahead

The Dartmouth College Glee Club will perform two recitals of baroque composer Giacomo Carissimi’s Jepte oratorio on Feb. 16 at Spaulding Auditorium in Hanover. To reserve tickets ($10), visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

Theater/Performance Art

Northern Stage continues its production of Only Yesterday at the Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction, including performances at 2 this afternoon and 7:30 tonight. The world premiere of Norwich resident Bob Stevens’ re-imagining of an early episode in the relationship between Beatles co-founders John Lennon and Paul McCartney runs through Feb. 18. To reserve seats ($13.75 to $57.75) and learn more, visit northernstage.org or call 802-296-7000.

The Parish Players present the company’s 12th annual Ten-Minute Play Festival at the Eclipse Grange on Thetford Hill over the next two weekends, starting tonight at 7:30. For tickets ($10 to $15) and more information visit parishplayers.org or call 802-785-4344.

The BarnArts Center for the Arts stages Neil Simon’s semiautobiographical Brighton Beach Memoirs over the next two weekends at the Grange Theatre in South Pomfret, starting Friday night at 7:30. To reserve tickets ($10 to $18) and learn more, visit barnarts.org or call 802-234-1645.

Boston-based comedian/producer Mike McDonald hosts the second annual Comedy Extravaganza at Lebanon Opera House on Saturday night at 7:30, as a benefit for David’s House. The lineup of stand-up artists includes Gary Gulman, Comedy Central regulars Jim David and Sean Sullivan, and Will Noonan of Gotham Comedy Live.

Opera North hosts the second in its series of four preview discussions of its 2018 season on Sunday afternoon at 2, at the Coldwell Banker real estate office in Hanover. Artistic director Louis Burkot and dramaturge Peter Webster will talk about the Offenbach opera Tales of Hoffman. For tickets ($30) and more information about this and the last two discussions, visit operanorth.org/special-events/html.

Music

Blues guitarist Paul Asbell plays at the Chandler Music Hall in Randolph on Friday night at 7:30. For tickets ($16 in advance, $18 on Friday) and more information, visit chandler-arts.org.

Upper Valley Music Center cello teacher Benjamin Kulp performs works of Bach and of 20th-century composers in a solo recital at the center in downtown Lebanon on Saturday afternoon at 3. While admission is free, donations to the center’s tuition-assistance program are welcome. To learn more, visit uvmusic.org.

Soulfix plays dance music at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2571 in White River Junction on Saturday night at 7:30.

Boston-based guitarist Lyle Brewer appears at ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret on Sunday afternoon at 4. For tickets ($10) and more information, visit artistreevt.org or call 802-457-3500.

Singer Nancy Kelly performs this weekend’s Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon concert at 4 at the Center at Eastman in Grantham. For tickets ($18 to $20) and more information, visit josajazz.com, call 603-763-8732 or 603-381-1662 or email bill.wightman@comcast.net.

Interplay Jazz hosts a jam session at the ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret next Thursday night from 7 to 10. To register to perform and to learn more, visit interplayjazzandarts.org.

Dance

The Thetford-based roots band Blind Squirrel sets the rhythm and Dana Dwinell-Yardley calls the steps for the Valentine’s contra dance at Tracy Hall in Norwich on Saturday night from 8 to 11. Admission is $6 to $10.

Bar and Club Circuit

Guitarist Ted Mortimer and fiddler Thal Aylward play the Peyton Place restaurant in Orford tonight between 6 and 9.

Randy Miller leads the weekly live session of traditional Irish music at Salt hill Pub in Hanover tonight starting at 6. Club Soda plays Friday night at 9 and singer-songwriter Chris Powers performs Saturday night at 9.

The Funky Crustaceans serenade the Mardi Gras party at Salt hill Pub in downtown Lebanon on Friday night at 9. On Saturday night at 9, FLEW-Z frontman Alec Currier plays acoustic rock.

The Night Shift Duo plays covers of country and acoustic-rock classics at Salt hill Pub in Newport on Friday night at 9, and the second round of the Newport’s Got Talent contest overtakes the venue on Saturday night at 9. Roger Kahle joins Randy Miller at the venue on Wednesday night at 6 for their weekly live session of traditional Irish music.

Tirade frontman Toby Moore performs a solo set of acoustic rock at the Salt hill Pub in West Lebanon on Friday night starting at 9. Dopamine rocks the venue on Saturday night at 9.

Saxophonist Mike Parker and singer-guitarist Alison “AliT” Turner play at Bentley’s Restaurant in Woodstock on Friday night from 6 to 9.

Sensible Shoes sets the rhythm for dancing at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners on Friday night at 9.

The roots-reggae band Adwela & The Uprising pulls into Windsor Station on Friday night at 9:30. Rock bands The Pilgrims and Faux in Love play a Saturday night double bill. Johnny O seizes the venue’s microphone on Tuesday night at 2.

Pianist Sonny Saul performs jazz at the On the River Inn in Woodstock on Saturday and Wednesday nights from 6 to 9.

The White River Junction-based quartet Wendigo rocks The Dusty Bottle in Bradford, Vt., on Saturday night at 9. Admission is $5.

Saxophonist Mike Parker performs with singer Iva Wich at the Crossroads Bar and Grill in South Royalton on Tuesday night at 7, and plays jazz with guitarist Norm Wolfe at the Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm on Wednesday night at 6.

Open Mics

Ramunto’s Brick & Brew Pizza in Bridgewater hosts an open mic starting at 7:30 on Thursday nights. Participants get a free large cheese pizza.

String players of all ages and abilities are welcome at the weekly acoustic jam session at South Royalton’s BALE Commons on Friday night from 6:30 to 10.

Al Carruth and E.J. Tretter host the Sunapee Community CoffeeHouse’s monthly open mic on Friday night at 7, in the basement of the Methodist Church in Sunapee Harbor.

Joe Stallsmith leads his weekly hootenanny of Americana, folk and bluegrass on Monday night at 6 at Salt hill Pub in Hanover.

Jim Yeager hosts open mics on the following nights over the coming week: at Bentley’s Restaurant in Woodstock on Monday night at 7:30; at the Public House in Quechee on Tuesday night at 6; and on Wednesday from 8 to midnight at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners.

Fiddler Jakob Breitbach leads a weekly acoustic jam session of bluegrass, Americana and old-timey music on Tuesday nights at 7 at The Filling Station Bar and Grill in White River Junction.

Tom Masterson hosts the weekly open mic at Bradford’s Colatina Exit on Tuesday nights at 8.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.