With this, Illinois-born Mike Osborn’s 3rd LP Unbroken, (Oct. 25th release Je Gagne Records), continues a journey of self-realization & inner peace. Produced by Randy Ray Mitchell the LP features John Griparic (bass), Tom Fillman (drums) & Mike (lead guitar, vocals)
Mike doesn’t explore anything that hasn’t been done by other artists, i.e. — learning from past mistakes, confessing his love, the plight of hard workers in mills, working for a weekend beer, & family relationships. What Mike does, however, is embellish it all with a soulful bluesy Mason Ruffner type voice & guitar & that’s exciting. With a spare band (of 2 others) that squeezes out the most full-sounding notes possible the LP radiates solid beats, fluid lead guitar & blues bravado.
“Why,” opens & if this is what’s in store through track 11, we don’t have a campfire, we have a bonfire. Track 2 “Time Machine,” is more light-reggae but Osborn’s rippling Epiphone guitar & voicing mix a jambalaya of beautiful earthy sound. Supporting musicians are tight as a spark plug in a ’55 Chevy in a forest with a tree growing through its trunk. This track is worth it — just for the blues licks & fine production. You have remind yourself it’s just a trio – much the same as Cream was. The uniformity in Cream was commendable back in 1969 – it’s commendable here as well.
Another rocker with that Mason Ruffner guitar/vocal feel emerges from “Complicated Lie,” & “Boys In the Band,” – they have a vibrancy seldom heard in today’s young wimpy rock singers. Osborn is an expert singing lines that follow with perfect guitar accentuation. That adds to the drama. Artists like Ruffner, the late John Campbell, Chris Rea, Mark Knopfler & David Gilmour exemplifies that style. This is a great showcase for lovers of lead guitar. The song is well arranged & for 3 musicians it drives hard.
What makes Mike Osborn & his musicians special is that despite the Ruffner edge, & with Robert Ellis-Orrall power (“Tell Me If It Hurts”), Mike sounds original. His voice is deliciously distinctive. Ruffner is a little more Dylan-leaning whereas Mike isn’t that at all. Once you hear Osborn – the richness of tone is perfectly suited for the kind of melodies he sings.
For me, though, I hear nothing country. The possibility is there but not this LP. It’s just good solid rock. Excellent songwriting & musicians. Closer to Dylan’s “Solid Rock,” than Willie Nelson. Osborn applies a little Gordon Lightfoot inflection to his vocal on “Family Crest.” The drama injected into “Some Will Fail,” is mindful of Ohio’s powerful veteran rocker J.D. Blackfoot (“The Ultimate Prophecy”). The guitar somewhat like Blackfoot’s former lead guitarists Craig Fuller & Jeff Whitlock. Tone, chiming aggressiveness, excellent then, excellent now.
This voice is not to be wasted in the shower. 42-minutes isn’t nearly enough.