The thing about Joan Osborne is, she could sing her way through a phone book and bring a crowd to its feet — or knees, depending on her mood. So, when she teams up with some of the best players in the business, good things are bound to happen. Such is the case with Trigger Hippy, which finds Osborne fronting a sort of supergroup founded by Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman. Though the original line-up featured both Widespread Panic’s Jimmy Herring and the Black Crowes’ Audley Freed on guitar, the quintet’s latest incarnation includes producer/guitarist Tom Bukovac, songwriter/bassist Nick Govrick, and singer/songwriter/guitarist Jackie Greene. Trigger Hippy’s roots run deep and the down-and-dirty, soul-tinged blues they rock is the real deal.
Dripping with Hammond organ, the clap-em-if-you-got-em swing of “Rise Up Singing” starts the set off right. Here, as elsewhere, Osborne and Greene share center stage and swap verses. Written by Greene, “Rise Up Singing” makes you want to, well, rise up singing. (Well played, Jackie Greene. Well played.) And it gets the job done as both the album’s lead track and lead single. As the sexy, rocking swank of “Turpentine” kicks in, Osborne matches Bukovac’s gritty guitar licks before handing the verse over to Greene. She comes back in to drive the choruses home, though, before doubling Greene on the b-sections. It’s a lot of coming and going. The contemporary blues rock of “Heartache on the Line” is a duet with a far more straightforward framing, but it all works out in the end.
After “Cave Hill Cemetery” and “Tennessee Mud” kick some serious ass, “Pretty Mess” steps up to bat, but with a far more gentle swing that leans into an acoustic guitar and lilting harmonies. Govrick penned both “Pretty Mess” and its companion piece, “Adelaide”, another easy listen that closes the album. Most of the other cuts were written by various band members (past and present) in various configurations.
For fans of jam bands, Trigger Hippy is a worthy contender. And, for fans of great singers, Joan Osborne is always a solid choice. Trigger Hippy, the record, does what it can to capture the best of both, but seeing this band live is really the way to go.