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Originally from the Louisville suburb of Anchorage, Kentucky, she moved to New York City in the late 1980's, where Osborne formed her own record label, Womanly Hips, to release a few independent recordings before signing to Mercury Records. Her second (and first major label) album is Relish (1995), which became a hit on the strength of the single "One of Us." The song was much more pop-oriented than the rest of the album, which was steeped in country, blues and folk music. "Right Hand Man" and "St. Teresa" were minor hits following the success of "One of Us".
Osborne's audience grew significantly with her appearance at Lilith Fair, which placed her in the same school of female singer-songwriters as Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan. Her third studio album was Righteous Love, a long-delayed release, which fell off the charts quickly.
Osborne was featured in the 2002 documentary film Standing in the Shadows of Motown and toured with legendary Motown sidemen the Funk Brothers. She and her band accompanied the Dixie Chicks for a national tour in the summer of 2003, during which time she also joined veteran San Francisco jam-rockers the Dead as a vocalist, and released her fourth album, titled How Sweet It Is, a collection of classic rock and soul covers.
In November 2006, Osborne released Pretty Little Stranger, her self-described "Nashville album." It includes one song, "After Jane," about a relationship with a woman (Osborne herself is bisexual).
She sings lead vocals on the cover of "Spoonful" on Vivian Campbell's solo album Two Sides Of If. She also provided some vocals for "Wayfaring Stranger" on Spearhead's 1997 album Chocolate Supa Highway. Joan is featured on the Holmes Brothers 2007 collection State of Grace performing Those Memories of You, an old Allan O'Bryant and Bill Monroe bluegrass tune.
- Relish (1995)
- Early Recordings (1996)
- Righteous Love (2000)
- How Sweet It Is (2002)
- One of Us (2005)
- Christmas Means Love (2005)
- Pretty Little Stranger (2006)
- Breakfast in Bed (2007)
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