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Michael Osborn & the Drivers

Michael Osborn & the Drivers - The Glamorous Life - 2010 - Checkerboard Records

Michael is a very gifted guitarist who know that less often really means more. His playing is imaginative, and his technique is precise. He can play terrific blues guitar without overwhelming the song and never showing off. He can play with a tone and craft without hands flying across the frets trying to play as many notes as possible in as short a time as possible. This album is a tasteful example of playing great blues guitar by stretching notes and adding clever little fills in all the right places. Mike mainly plays traditional blues but always adds something new to the old classics. If you like biting, aggressive and inventive blues guitar in the style of great players like B.B. & Freddy King, you may like this album. See if you can find Mike's 1988 "Cold Hearted Girl" album. Check out Mike's "What Goes Around", "Touch Tone", and "A Case For The Blues" albums on this blog [All tracks @ 320 Kbps: File size = 68.8 Mb]


1. Why Get Up - B.Carter, R.Ellsworth
2. Here She Comes - K.G. Jackson
3. The Glamorous Life - Michael Osborn
4. Needles And Pins - K.G. Jackson
5. Lollipop Mama - Roy Brown, Clarence Samuels, William Clarke
6. Bright Lights Big City - Jimmy Reed
7. Little Suzanne - Michael Osborn, KG Jackson, Dave Mathis, KG Jackson, John Moore, Stu Kinzel


Michael Osborn - Guitar, Vocals
K.G. Jackson - Bass Guitar, Vocals
John Moore - Drums
Dave Mathis - Harmonica, Vocals


Michael Osborn was John Lee Hooker’s lead guitarist for 13 years. After his stint with Mr. Hooker, one of Michael’s songs, “Spellbound”, was featured on John Lee’s 1998 Grammy Award winner for Best Traditional Blues recording, “Don’t Look Back”! Michael has also backed such musical luminaries as Robben Ford (Michael has a song credit on Robben’s “Blue Moon” release), Mark Ford, The Charles Ford Band, Charlie Musselwhite, James Cotton, Brownie McGee, Bill Rhoades, Sista Monica, Annie Sampson and so many others. Mike presently resides in the Portland, Oregon area and has been nominated three times by the Cascade Blues Association for best blues guitarist and once for blues best recording for his CD release of “Touch Tone.” As a member of Bill Rhoades and the Party Kings, he taken home 7 awards for best traditional blues band and was inducted into the CBA Hall of Fame as a member of that band! “Michael Osborn is one of the most authentic blues guitarists around today. His style goes straight to the heart of the blues and he’ll steal your show if you don’t watch out!” ~ Robben Ford

Michael Osborn was John Lee Hooker’s guitarist for 13 years (I do remember seeing him with The Boogie Man at London’s Hammersmith Odeon) and he has a respectable discography himself, with three albums for Blue Rock’It between 1988 and 1996, and now releases on his own Checkerboard label. It certainly shows on this release, which is definitely modern blues but without any of the vacant posturing that term sometimes implies. He began his blues career working with the Ford Brothers and in 1970 was a founding member of the famed Charles Ford Band (who recorded for Arhoolie). That he has got the chops is in no doubt from this straightforward blues set. There are echoes of Hooker’s spikey guitar style (most notably on ‘Needles And Pins’), but for the most part the playing recalls the likes of BB King and Alberts King and Collins, though usually with a little more down-home ambience, thanks to the stripped-down accompaniment of just bass, drums and harp. Lead vocals are shared between Dave Jackson on four songs, KG Jackson on three numbers, and Michael himself on just one, and the occasional use of harmonised lead vocals adds a fine individual sound. Most of the songs are originals but there are a couple of nice surprises. Whilst the opener is best-known from The Fabulous Thunderbirds and is a fine, slightly New Orleans-ish rocking piece, ‘Lollipop Mama’ is an excellent cover of Clarence Samuels’ 1947 Aristocrat recording. I enjoyed this CD a lot – it is pleasing and unpretentious. Mike recalls in his notes that Hooker told him: “You can play a lot of notes and think you’re dazzling them… give them melody and feeling…” On this evidence Mike took note. - Norman Darwen, Blues and Rhythm Magazine, UK

Boy, this CD was a long time in coming. After Michael Osborn put together The Drivers more than a year ago with such a talented line-up, I was heavy in anticipation awaiting the release of new material. Well, I have to say the wait was well worth it. Osborn’s third disc on his own Checkerboard label, The Glamorous Life proves that the band’s name is aptly titled. Because this album just drives the blues home. The Drivers of course are made up of Osborn’s searing guitar work, local harp great Dave Mathis doing his usual blowing the tin off the instrument, K.G. Jackson handling bass superbly and John Moore hitting the skins with the perfect rhythm. Michael, K.G. and Dave alternate between one another on vocals. It’s a traditional blues gem, as they work from covers to originals, all with equal attention that rings true every time. K.G. Jackson has long been an overlooked talent in the Northwest. We’ve seen him front bands of his own in the past, most often playing guitar. But he relents the guitar duties to Michael, rightly so considering Osborn’s past work with such people as Charlie Musselwhite, Sista Monica, The Ford Blues Band and more than a decade leading one John Lee Hooker’s band. But Jackson is more than capable at bass and what’s even more his forte, he’s a great songwriter, contributing three tracks to the album. The only other original being Osborn’s title track. The CD opens with a very nice cover of the song “Why Get Up,” best known for The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ take and this new version holds up well compared to theirs. Also familiar tunes include “Lollipop Mama,” a staple of William Clarke’s songbook that has become an outstanding piece yet again in the hands of Dave Mathis, and the Jimmy Reed classic “Bright Lights, Big City” with the unmistakable harmonica riff handled nicely by Mathis while Osborn provides some tasty guitar additions. The Glamorous Life is a very satisfying CD, with only one problem I can note. At just under 31 minutes in length, it leaves you wishing for more. But what a fantastic 31 minutes it is. Bravo to Michael Osborn & The Drivers on delivering the goods in a big way! - Greg Johnson, Cascade Blues Association, Portland, OR

My secret weight loss program? “Sleep Your Weight Away.” It is based on the fact that even a sleeping person is burning calories, and, most importantly, one is not eating while asleep. Feeling hungry? Take a nap instead of having a snack! “I went to the doctor he said lose some weight / And, if you don’t do it quick we got to operate …. Why Get Up?,” sings Dave Mathis, harmonicist and vocalist for Michael Osborn and the Drivers on Osborn’s latest CD. In the opening track, Mathis makes a convincing case for just sleeping the troubles away as he nails the vocals on this cover of the memorable Fabulous Thunderbirds song, written by Bill Carter and wife Ruth Ellsworth. Mathis, in addition to listing six more reasons to just stay in bed, adds a killer harmonica solo at mid song just after Osborn’s tasty guitar-break licks. And, thus, we have the beginning of another standout set of Blues from Michael Osborn and crew. Thirty minutes is way too short for this CD, but I love the stripped down, real-deal approach of this veteran Bluesman’s quartet: guitar, bass, harp, drums — and no horns! Osborn’s guitar playing is a real highlight. With pleasing tone, he is tasteful in his note spacing, stretching, fills, and runs. Anything but over the top, he is, thankfully, not a string shredder. Osborn’s sixth release is purist pleasing electric Blues across four originals and three covers. My favorite original, “Needles and Pins,” is written by bassist and vocalist K.G. Jackson. This mid-tempo shuffle opens with ear catching single notes from Osborn’s guitar. The rhythm joins, founded by John Moore’s pocket drumming, and then three part harmony vocals cement this song enjoyable and memorable. Melody is what makes this song joyously swing, a trait of the classics one remembers most. I also liked Osborn’s multi-tracked rhythm guitar alongside his lead guitar punctuations at the end of each vocal line. “The Glamorous Life” is a humorous shuffle giving us our first listen to Osborn’s serviceable vocals. After listing a litany of road woes for a touring musician, Osborn sardonically sings, but “…it’s the glamorous life.” This song was also included in Osborn’s previous release, 2008’s “What Goes Around.” Michael Osborn is well known and respected, especially in his home, the West Coast. Michael grew up in Ukiah CA with the Ford brothers, including the great Robben Ford. In 1970, he was one of the founding members of the Charles Ford Band. In 1981, Michael became the lead guitarist and band leader for Blues legend John Lee Hooker. For the next 13 years, Michael toured the world with John Lee. Since then, Osborn has played with Sista Monica, toured Europe with his own band, recorded three CDs on the Blue Rock’it label and three more on his own Checkerboard label. For seven years he’s been an outstanding contribution to Bill Rhoades and the Party Kings in his current home near Portland OR. These four cats are just killer: three part harmonies plus all but Moore take a turn at lead vocals, Mathis deft on diatonic and chromatic harps, Jackson writing in classic style, Osborn playing ripping guitar (even channeling Albert King at one point), and John Moore’s veteran stick work being the band’s heartbeat. Electric Blues fans – this one is a delight! - James “Skyy Dobro” Walker, Blues Blast, IL

Bright juicy album by blues singer and guitar player Michael Osborn and The Drivers. Michael’s first album is a collaboration of four high class musicians, intense, passionate, colorful and in love with the most classic genuine blues, who are Dave Mathis on vocals and harmonica, KG Jackson on bass and vocals and John Moore on drums. Three excellent singers who take leading turns along the album, as they are gifted with a great powerful voice which make them shine like twinkling stars. But as instrumentalist they are also impressive and all them have a fine tasteful technique, which makes them give a personal intense feeling to all songs included. The four musicians have individually won some Cascade Blues Association Muddy Awards in different categories. Michael was also the right hand of the great John Lee Hooker and the rest of musicians were also members of the bands of artists like Albert Collins, William Clarke, Willie Dixon and Robben Ford, among others. Welcome to this big blues party where these musicians are the best possible hosts and actors. GREAT. - Vincente Zumel,” La Hora del Blues”, Barcelona, Spain


Michael Osborn (Guitar/Vocals/Songwriter) was John Lee Hooker’s lead guitarist for 13 years. After his stint with Mr. Hooker, one of Michael’s songs, Spellbound, was featured on John Lee’s 1997 Grammy Award winning “Don’t Look Back”! Michael has also backed such musical luminaries as Robben Ford, Charlie Musselwhite, Bill Rhoades and so many others. Mike presently resides in the Portland, Oregon area and has been nominated three times by the CBA for best blues guitarist and once for blues best recording for his CD release of “Touch Tone.” As a member of Bill Rhoades and the Party Kings, he taken home 7 awards for best traditional blues band and was inducted into the CBA Hall of Fame as a member of that band! K.G. Jackson (Bass Guitar/Vocals/Songwriter) has 25 years of professional experience and has been playing music in the NW since 1990. In 1997 his band “K.G. Jackson and Shakin’ Ground” was a CBA Muddy Award nominee for Best New Act. In 2006 he did a short stint in the band “Double Deuces” which was then nominated for Best New Act. He was also nominated in 2006 by the CBA for Best Vocalist. K.G. is also a prolific songwriter and writes many of the songs the band performs. Dave Mathis (Harmonica and Vocals) has long been a Portland mainstay of the blues with 30 years of professional experience. He had a long stint playing with Kelly Jo Phelps and is featured on Kelly’s recording entitled “Traditional Blues” as well as one cut on “Shine Eyed Mister Zen”. Dave is also a two-time CBA Muddy Award Winner in the Traditional Blues Act category with the band “Sheila and Backwater Blues” for the years of 1996 & 1997. Dave can blaze on the harmonica or play sweet and low with the best of them, and he is also a heartfelt true blues singer. John Moore (Drums/Percussion) has been a mainstay of the Portland/Eugene Blues scene for more than 20 years. He has backed Albert Collins, William Clarke, Bill Rhoades and even George Harrison! He is the heartbeat of the band! © http://www.reverbnation.com/michaelosbornandthedrivers


During the mid-60's Michael Osborn was introduced to blues music through his friendship with Robben and Patrick Ford. Out of this association, Michael began playing bass guitar with the Ford brothers in various blues, rhythm & blues bands over a three-year period, from 1967 thiough 1969. In 1970, Michael (having switched to playing rhythm guitar, joined the first incarnation of the Charles Ford Band featuring Gary Smith on harmonica and Lou Bottoni on bass guitar. After many months of club dates, Pat and Robben left the band to join Charlie Musselwhite. (The Charles Ford Band disbanded until Pat and Robben reformed the following year as a quartet with Mark Ford on Harmonica and Stan Poplin on bass.) In the early 1970's, Michael recorded wlth the Charles Ford Band and Charlie Musselwhite. He also continued to build his guitar chops through the 70's while performing in various blues bands with Gary Smith, Mark Ford, Mixed Nuts (featuring Bonnie Raitt's brother, David Raitt) and an occasional Charles Ford Band reunion. In June of 1981 Michael became lead guitarist for the great John Lee Hooker. He toured all over North America, Europe, Japan and Brazil with John Lee for the next 13 years. During this same period, he backed such people as Robert Cray, Elvin Bishop, Brownie McGee, Willie Dixon, Jarnes Cotton and Charlie Musselwhite. He has also played on stage with such notables as Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Johnson, Albert Collins, Ry Cooder, Carlos Santana, John Hammond, Etta James, Curtis Salgado, and The Nighthawks. Michael has performed at many prestigious venues in the United States and Europe such as Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, The Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, The North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland, The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, Newport Folk Festival, The Hammersmith Odeon in London, The Monterey blues Festival,etc. Since he left John Lee Hooker's Coast to Coast Blues Band, Michael fronts his own band and also performs with blues singing sensation Sista Monica. He was one of the headliners at the Mountain Winery Summer Series blues Festival '94, and has toured Europe several times, playing festivals and clubs throughout, including Djurs Bluesland Festival in Denmark. He has toured Western Canada, the Pacific Northwest and various Northern California venues (including the Monterey Jazz Festival and the Sacramento Blues Festival) with great success. © Blue Rock'It Records 2001-2007

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