Joan Osborne has released Tangled Up In Blue, the new single from her forthcoming studio album, Songs of Bob Dylan.
The LP finds the seven-time Grammy nominated singer-songwriter put her own spin on highlights from Dylan’s back catalogue. Tangled Up In Blue, for example, gets a classic soul makeover.
“We ended up listening to Dusty Springfield’s Dusty in Memphis, some of the classic Memphis recordings of that time, to see if we could flavour the Dylan song with some of that stuff,” reveals Osborne.
“It’s a very lengthy song, and that’s why people tend to do it at this rapid-fire pace, to get this epic story out there, but I wanted something that would put a different spin on it. I wanted to give it a more feminist spin, a different kind of energy.”
Other songs Osborne reinterprets on her ninth studio LP include Dylan’s ’60s and ’70s standards (like Masters of War, Highway 61 Revisited, and Rainy Day Women #12 & 35) as well as some of her favourites from his later albums, including Dark Eyes (from 1985’s Empire Burlesque), Ring Them Bells (from 1989’s Oh Mercy), and Tryin’ To Get To Heaven (from 1997’s Time Out of Mind).
“I try not to do a straight-up imitation of what someone else has done,” Osborne says of her approach to Dylan’s songs.
“So I always try to find some unique way into the song, and also to pick songs where the intersection between the song and my voice hits some kind of sweet spot. It was a joy being able to sing these brilliant lyrics. It’s like an actor being given a great part. You are just so excited to say these lines because they’re so powerful that it lifts you up above yourself.”
Osborne has a long history with Dylan’s music and his spirit loomed particularly large when she made her start performing in New York City’s downtown rock clubs.
“When you’re playing in the nightclub scene in Greenwich Village, his trail is everywhere, and not just because he played in the same places, but because people still perform his music every night. He’s part of the American musical education you get, whether you’re learning about him in some music conservatory or by playing in bars five nights a week,” she says.
Songs like Subterranean Homesick Blues helped Osborne as she began recording her own music, with her take on Dylan’s Man In The Long Black Coat appearing on her multi-platinum debut album, Relish.
Two decades later, the live show Joan Osborne Sings The Songs Of Bob Dylan saw her dive deep into Dylan’s words and music. The two-week stints at New York’s Café Carlyle in March 2016 and 2017 were followed in April by a sold-out performance at Union Chapel in London.
Songs of Bob Dylan is released on 1 September.