A 'Patchwork' Tour Of New Orleans With Anders Osborne You can find the renaissance of the post-hurricane Crescent City echoed in the life of the musician, who has rebuilt his life after drug and alcohol addiction. Melissa Block spends a day in the city with the bluesy, fiery songwriter.
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A 'Patchwork' Tour Of New Orleans With Anders Osborne

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A 'Patchwork' Tour Of New Orleans With Anders Osborne

A 'Patchwork' Tour Of New Orleans With Anders Osborne

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I'm Melissa Block with a story now from New Orleans, a story of rebirth. You can find the renaissance of that ravaged city echoed in the life of musician Anders Osborne.

Mr. ANDERS OSBORNE (Musician): New Orleans has a beautiful way of integrating everyone that comes here.

BLOCK: Osborne is an import to New Orleans. Born and raised in Sweden, he left home at 16 to travel and make music, landed in New Orleans 25 years ago, and he's become a musical fixture of the city - a bluesy songwriter, a fiery guitar player with lots of troubles behind him.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: Anders Osborne is in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. There were relapses over the years, and rehab. Osborne has a wife and young children -and now a new album, titled "American Patchwork."

(Soundbite of song, "On the Road to Charlie Parker")

Mr. OSBORNE: (Singing) Yeah, you're a mighty, mighty fool trying to keep up your cool. You're living on the ledge. You're afraid of the edge. Never think ahead, you don't get involved. You mess around with trouble that you can't solve. You're like a diamond without any shine, you're like a romance with no sure time...

BLOCK: That title, "American Patchwork," is symbolic. As Osborne puts it, it represents the patching back together of a man scattered to the wind, broken and in pieces.

This song opens the CD. It's called "On the Road to Charlie Parker." It's his nod to the great jazz saxophonist, who died at 34 after years of devastating drug and alcohol abuse.

(Soundbite of song, "On the Road to Charlie Parker")

Mr. OSBORNE: (Singing) On the road to Charlie Parker.

Mr. OSBORNE: Being a big Charlie Parker fan and knowing his destiny, I was kind of talking to myself, third person, saying, you know, this is where you're going if you continue like this.

BLOCK: On a recent visit, I asked Anders Osborne to give me a tour of some of his favorite, most meaningful spots in New Orleans. And so, we head out into the morning. He's got a coffee mug in hand.

How many cups to get you going in the morning?

Mr. OSBORNE: Two. One and a half I try to do, because I'm friendlier that way. But two, that's when I feel better.

BLOCK: As we walk through the city, Anders will nod to people passing by. He'll raise his coffee cup a bit and give this greeting:

Mr. OSBORNE: All right.

BLOCK: He's pretty striking, with tattoos inked up and down his arms and a long, thick, mountain-man kind of beard, gold streaked with gray.

Mr. OSBORNE: We're going to go over the bridge here.

BLOCK: Anders takes me first to City Park, a lush, green refuge not far from his house. It's shaded by giant live oaks.

Mr. OSBORNE: Lots of Spanish moss hanging down into the water, the little bayou area. And it's all just kind of slow and lazy, but it feels like a center for me. This has always been like a really whew central part of my New Orleans.

(Soundbite of song, "Oh, Katrina")

Mr. OSBORNE: (Singing) Oh, Katrina, what have you done? Oh, my sweet crescent city...

BLOCK: City Park took a big wallop from Katrina. Anders Osborne remembers coming back to New Orleans about a month after the storm.

Mr. OSBORNE: And so when you first come in, it's extremely bizarre because just everything's dead. You wouldn't hear these birds. They're gone. There are no worms. When you're digging to get all the stuff and clean up, and nothing there. There's nothing. There's nothing green anywhere, nothing green - nothing.

(Soundbite of song, "Oh, Katrina")

Mr. OSBORNE: (Singing) And then you took me, and then you shook me, and then you left me all alone in the dawn.

BLOCK: How much is Katrina still on people's minds, do you think, or on your mind?

>Mr. OSBORNE: Oh, it's I think it's a way of life now. It's before, and then there's after. I can't quite remember what life was without Katrina. I don't know. For me personally, it's been a lot of different kinds of healing, you know. Fixing stuff and then fixing yourself, and then fixing the ones you love, and then fixing each other. I don't know you just keep fixing stuff, slowly.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. OSBORNE: Now, I was thinking we should go to a place where I met my wife and where I proposed to her. It's a graveyard.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: So off we head to St. Louis Cemetery Number 3, with its acres of above-ground marble crypts, the crosses on top outlined against a bright, blue sky.

Mr. OSBORNE: Here we are.

BLOCK: We stop at one tomb on the edge of the cemetery. Behind a chain-link fence is a house where Anders Osborne used to live. Here's the story: It was during Jazz Fest. He had a party and Sarah, the woman he'd later marry, was there. One thing led to another.

Mr. OSBORNE: We jumped the fence, and we were romantically hanging out here.

BLOCK: Say no more.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: That was a turning point. About six months later, he led Sarah back over the fence, back up onto this tomb.

Mr. OSBORNE: I had a cake and the ring, and lit candles that I had ran out and lit before. So we came out, and I proposed. Was that pretty good?

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. OSBORNE: (Singing) Any mountain, any lake. If we can climb it, we can crawl. So baby don't you worry about a thing because I've got your heart.

Mr. OSBORNE: Lets just drive past Jackson Square. There's a - public parking to the left.


Our last stop on our New Orleans tour is the French Quarter, where Anders Osborne lived on and off for a dozen years.

It was here, on Decatur Street, that he sat at his piano by the balcony and wrote about sticky, slow, summer days in New Orleans.

(Soundbite of song, "Summertime in New Orleans")

Mr. OSBORNE: (Singing) On the front stoop of my house, watching folks go by, lazy days chewing on ice, just waiting on July. And (unintelligible), and we all know what it means, rag-a-tag of rain, city so slow; it's summertime in New Orleans.

BLOCK: We stand on the levee along the Mississippi River, and watch the tugboats and barges churn by. This is another place he likes to come to clear his head.

Mr. OSBORNE: So here's like, the big crescent that creates this whole thing. So if you imagine it's been swirling and swirling and swirling, but it makes a pretty radical turn like this and that's hence, the Crescent City. So there's a lot of energy here.

BLOCK: And the soundtrack for Anders Osborne, here in the French Quarter?

Mr. OSBORNE: Just subterranean kind of lifestyle and attitude, and a little bit dirt under your fingernails, people playing extremely in the moment and tough, and so forth. At the same time, the most romantic soundtrack you can ever imagine, I feel down here, too. So those are the two extremes, I think.

BLOCK: The dirt under the fingernails and the romance, at the same time, all right here in the French Quarter.

Mr. OSBORNE: Yeah. It's like really beautiful love made with a really dirty hooker.

BLOCK: That's Anders Osborne, giving me a tour of his New Orleans. His latest CD is "American Patchwork."

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