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Review: Anders Osborne and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band 

David Kunian and Frank Etheridge on new CD releases

Dirty Dozen Brass Band

Twenty Dozen

(Savoy Jazz)

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After 35 wonderful years, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band's records are as fun as ever. At this point in its career, the Dirty Dozen has perfected playing along the fine line of being tight enough to keep dancers on their toes, but loose enough to sound like a New Orleans band enjoying itself. On Twenty Dozen, the group's usual irreverence is on display in enthusiastic vocals (listen to the cover of Rihanna's "Don't Stop The Music") and Roger Lewis's ribald exhortations on "Dirty Old Man." This recording also continues the Dozen's recent trajectory away from the in-your-face New Orleans street blasts to which less experienced brass bands resort, and deeper into African and Caribbean sounds. The album has moments that sound like Fela Kuti with the tight horn riffs and clipped, repeated guitar parts. Other songs feature a looser island feel with the rhythms of King Sunny Ade. Those rhythms stay supple because of the Dozen's unique instrumentation. The group's not-so-secret weapon, baritone saxophonist Lewis, either plays high lines or adds additional bass lines as trailblazing virtuoso Kirk Joseph lays down his usual funky bass on sousaphone and drummer Terence Higgins hits a powerful beat. But they don't leave the New Orleans parts of their sound or repertoire completely behind. The end of the album features an energetic medley of "Paul Barbarin's Second Line," "E Flat Blues" and "When the Saints Go Marching In" that would be the life of the party here or anywhere. Such versatility and the ability to take the music of Africa and the African diaspora and play it as if it were their own heritage is what separates the Dirty Dozen from other brass and funk bands. — David Kunian


Anders Osborne

Black Eye Galaxy

(Alligator)

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Black Eye Galaxy packs the potential to inform a global audience of what we have known for quite some time: Anders Osborne is a blissfully unrefined, self-defined beast of musical beauty. The album is a blistering baptism by fire, a powerful revelation for all your angels and devils, as it finds Osborne, unencumbered in his craftsmanship and on top of his considerable game. A primal wail greets the opening "Send Me a Friend," a full-tilt rocker that introduces an emotional urgency spanning a brilliant man's duality without losing its intimate grip. Beyond its rocking anthems, soulful ballads, catchy hooks, and intimate expression, Black Eye is about an artist who has achieved a state of enlightenment, the type of Zen painter Robert Henri called "that wonderful place in life in which making art is inevitable." Here, Osborne can do no wrong. Every song offers something new. The energy, tone and vibe are all perfect. Recorded at Dockside Studio in Maurice, La., the album features family and friends in a variety of roles (including Osborne's wife Sarah and daughter Rose on backing vocals), which is perhaps a large factor in the album's cohesion given its disparate tempos and attitudes. Osborne's recently discovered kinship with guitarist Billy Iuso inspired an embrace of the Grateful Dead, a spirit and style rarely heard in funk-in-your-face New Orleans. (The guitar noodling that breaks down sections of the title track is as intricately, deliciously bizarre as any of the Dead's explorations.) While also spanning hard-rock, acoustic blues and love songs, the album closes with the symphonic strings on "Higher Ground" (co-written with Henry Butler), a divine embrace of God's grace so good it must have Mahalia Jackson beaming down from above, smiling on an artist who, like her, has taken American musical forms, added his talents, troubles and triumphs and created a style distinctly his own. — FRANK ETHERIDGE

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