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The Brothers Osborne follow up their impressive EP with a solid major label debut, Pawn Shop, which showcases both their songwriting and performance chops.
Less than a month into a new year it would seem more than a little premature to start speculating about the best records of 2016.
But I'm going to throw caution to the wind here.
When all is said and done "Pawn Shop" by Brothers Osborne will be among the top 20 country recordings of the year.
Brothers T.J. and John Osborne have become a fixture on my iTunes player the past few days on the strength of material like "Dirt Rich" "21 Summer", "Stay A Little Longer" and "Greener Pastures."
T.J., the younger of the two, has one of those natural deep baritone voices that was made to sing hell raisin' honky tonk anthems, country rockers and soaring country ballads. Serious pipes. Serious talent.
Brother John is a wicked guitar player who is as comfortable playing something cool, mellow and laid-back as he is with a slick bluegrass lick, torch and twang material or something big, bad and bluesy, a la the Allman Brothers, who were one of his early influences growing up in a small fishing town in Maryland.
Together J.T. and John make a formidable duo.
Pawn Shop, the band's first full-length album, is a hale and hearty mix of country, blues and rock with an almost bigger than life sound. It's like Phil Spector's wall-of-sound, applied to country instead of pop, although there are certainly pop elements to the Brothers Osborne sound as well.
As kids J.T. and John spent a lot of time listening to their father's diverse record collection. Theirs was a very musical household with a lot of late-night jam sessions where family and friends cranked out the music of Bob Seger, Hank Williams, Tom Petty, and George Jones, all of whom helped shape their sound as they began to write.
The Osborne siblings strummed their first chords during those jam sessions.
They generated some attention a little while back with an EP that featured "Stay a Little Longer" and "Rum," but nothing like the attention they should generate with this full set. Both the above songs from their EP are included here by the way.
Pawn Shop offers a little bit of everything. There's bluesy slide guitar, country duets, southern rock solos, harmonies, and plenty of big grooves. The hooks are big, the guitars are loud, and the songs are asskickers.
All the material is original, written with a little help here and there from award-winning songwriters like Shane McAnally and Ross Copperman. Much of the material was penned in Nashville but they also wrote a lot on the road. They've spent a lot of time on the road, headlining their own club shows and touring the country with folks like Darius Rucker and Eric Church.
Extensive touring has helped shape them into a force to be reckoned with.
"Most duos are built on singing," T.J. said recently. "But John is an incredible guitar player, and this band is built on me singing and John playing guitar. It gives us two parallels that work nicely together."
Brother John says they take an old-school rock approach and cites Aerosmith and the Allman Brothers as influences on the duo's dynamic. "Groups like that always had the lead singer as well as the sideman guitar player. That's what we're going for, too. We're carving our own path in country music."
And they are most certainly on the right path.
(Rating 4 out of 5 stars)
Doug Gallant, a reporter with The Guardian, writes his music review column for The Guardian every week. He welcomes comments from readers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 629-6000, ext. 6057.