Pullin’ Through

Pullin' Through




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When Voss and Osborne’s first album Get to the Heart came out, it was, to many observers, what someone once called “an enigma wrapped in a mystery” (or “a mystery wrapped in an enigma”; I forget which). The two knowing but guileless faces that peered out at us from the album cover were warning enough that what was on the disc itself was not merely out of the ordinary, but somehow altogether outside of our previous experience. Through a wildly assorted group of old and new songs, a set of attitudes was expressed that didn’t come out in black and white, that didn’t shy away from ambiguities. The odd thing is that had Voss and Osborne been Europeans, there would have been little question about defining who they are: they would be great stars of the music hall. But they are Americans and we are in America, and they have asked me to write these few words so there will be no mystery the second time.

The truth of the matter is that Jane Voss & Hoyle Osborne are each one-hundred-and-twenty-six years old.  Though native born, they are both immigrants from the mid-West.  They both, independently and from opposite sides of the river, watched jazz come up the Mississippi and spread like some creeping perennial.  They went into the cotton fields and collected blues and went to the expositions and collected souvenirs.  They were in and out of vaudeville, burlesque, and the old Broadway musical theater, as well as up in Harlem, lost in Austin and, presumably, juiced in Houston.  They were folk of the folk movement and libs of the lib movement.  Through it all, they maintained their youthful appearances by eating apple pie, loving mom, and saluting the flag.

Naturally a background like this has influenced their performing style.  Hoyle Osborne, quite logically, is at home in the ragtime and barrelhouse piano styles of his youth as in the jazz and pop of his middle years and the rock and folk-influenced country of his maturity.  For Jane Voss, reliving the Columbian Exposition or the San Francisco flower child movement is as simple a matter as laying out the next nasty letter she will write to the Times on nuclear disarmament or women’s liberation.  Being around for so long, though, and their total recall of past and present, has giving Voss & Osborne a somewhat whimsical view of the whole.  Songs reflect their time, but some of them also have the potential for kidding the pants off it.  Voss’s meandering accent and expressive little vocal nuances bring out things in the songs that may always have been there, but we were all too busy to notice them before.  Needless to say, Voss & Osborne don’t sound like anybody else.  Really good performers never do, and they are really good performers.  I hope this clears up the mystery.  If you and I listen to them long enough, we may even begin to understand our world a little better.

— James Goodfriend,  Music Editor (ret.), Stereo Review

In My Girlish Days — Country blues goes to the big city, much as Minnie “Kid” Douglas herself once did. Having taken off at a tender age, she wrote this one about her adventures circa 1917 ... Nothing new about running away from home.

On the Rim of the World — A contemporary look at the life of a runaway — Berkeley, circa 1970s — a familiar scene on the streets of big cities, meccas for the hopeful young, looking for something better than life back home.

The Good-for-Nothin’ Blues — A song of exasperation — the sort brought on by nagging unemployment and frequent-but-futile forays into the job market.

When It’s All Goin’ Out (And Nothin’ Comin’ In) — A few well-chosen words on a subject that demands everyone’s attention, something we all have to live with — or live without, as the case may be. Bert Williams sang this one 80 years before us, but his observations are still, shall we say, au courant.

Skylab Scuttle — A pianistic fantasy complete with a lopsided waltz commemorating the ill-starred flight of the craft that could open only one “wing.”

I’ve Been on the Road Too Long — Back down to earth — Jane’s own song about the mixed blessings of hitting the dusty trail.

You’re the Cream in My Coffee — A song about the basics, the real brass tacks of live, over and above the mere getting and spending — a Tin Pan Alley gem and standard, learned from the obscure vaudevillean and recording artist Emmett Miller.

So Is Your Old Lady — Ruth Etting sang this one when it was new. Another good example of a song that, though admittedly somewhat dated, has not yet (alas) gone out of date.

I’m Pulling Through — Talk about your basics. From the singing of Billie Holiday.

I Didn’t Know You Cared — Jane in her honky-tonk element.

Hot Buttered Rum — For getting through the darkest time of the year.

 — Jane Voss & Hoyle Osborne

Recording of Special Merit • Stereo Review Magazine • 1983

Jane Voss: vocals & guitar

Hoyle Osborne: piano & vocals

Jim Rothermel: soprano, alto & tenor saxophones, clarinet, recorders & harmonica

Jan Martinelli: electric bass

Jeff Myer: drums

Recorded at Bay Records Studios, Alameda, California, February 1982

Engineered by Michael Cogan

Producers: Jane Voss & Hoyle Osborne

Assistant Producer: Jim Rothermel

Photography by Armen Kachaturian

Cover design by Carla Frey

Management and supervision: Wendy Newton

CD graphics by Creative Geckos

Reissue of Green Linnet SIF 1044

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