Little Wild One is Joan Osborne’s third album in as many years, but to many she’s still a one-hit wonder. Osborne’s mid-‘90s hit “One of Us” helped lump her in with the Lilith Fair crowd, but the song wasn’t completely representative of the singer’s soulful, roots-rock debut, Relish, nor did it display the full range of her magnificent voice. For a singer who once boasted of her own vocal talents, her last two records, 2006’s Pretty Little Stranger and last year’s Breakfast in Bed, presented a more restrained approach, and while her latest effort reunites her with the team responsible for Relish (former Hooters members Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman, along with producer Rick Chertoff and bassist Mark Egan), the album continues in this vein; it isn’t as robust—musically or vocally—as their first collaboration, where Osborne’s full-bodied voice was a perfect match for Egan’s bellowing bass notes and Bazilian’s crisp guitar lines. Most of the songs on Little Wild One pay tribute to New York City: Opening track “Hallelujah in the City” doubles as a tale of redemption and an ode to the Big Apple, while “Daddy-O” is a reverent hymn about Coney Island’s heyday, with Cordovox synthesizer and slide guitar solos taking turns paying homage. The deep, bluesy tones of Relish are replaced with more straight country flourishes, and though she lets loose on “Rodeo” and “Can’t Say No,” Osborne’s performances reflect a newfound maturity and modesty on understated ballads like the title track. The lived-in scratchiness of her voice on “To the One I Love” and the tight vocal harmonies of “Meet You in the Middle” prove that Osborne’s still got one of the most spectacular voices in pop music today.
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