Album Review: Brothers Osborne- Pawn Shop

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American Country music duo Brothers Osborne may not be overly well known in these parts, but after being nominated for “Best Country Duo/Group” at this year’s Grammy Awards perhaps it is time to take note. Signed to EMI Nashville, TJ (Lead Vocals and Guitar) and John (Lead Guitar, Banjo etc.) have released three singles in the States and have now released their debut album Pawn Shop. Produced by Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Zac Brown Band, Little Big Town), the eclectic album largely features a mix of Country and Country-Rock songs which they hope will carve their own path in the genre.

Impressively it should firstly be noted that the duo co-wrote all eleven tracks on the album together with some of the biggest songwriters in the business- Shane McAnally, Jessi Alexander, Craig Wiseman and Barry Dean to only highlight a few. With such talented individuals involved in the writing process, I for one was expecting great things from Brothers Osborne’s debut offering. The end product is, however, a little hit and miss.

The first single to be taken from the album, entitled “Rum”, features a catchy guitar riff and upon first listen I imagine comparisons will immediately be made with Zac Brown Band. While the subject matter is not overly inventive, the laid-back drinking song is nice enough to listen to especially due to the instrumentation and TJ’s vocals.

It is their latest single, and Grammy nominated song, “Stay A Little Longer” that is an early standout track on the album for me. Co-written with Shane McAnally, the song is incredibly catchy and the extended album version demonstrates how talented the two individuals are. In the UK many Country music fans have taken the band Striking Matches into their hearts, in part due to their guitar playing abilities. When seeing the likes of “Make A Liar Out Of Me” performed live you can only watch on in awe and I feel that Brothers Osborne could be onto a winner for a similar reason with this track. “Stay A Little Longer” gives John ample opportunity to shred and he definitely makes the most of it. The track is worth listening to for that alone but the song itself is one of the more memorable and TJ’s vocal tone particularly enjoyable.

Pawn Shop is an album that frequently deals with the concerns of working-class people and the idea of appreciating what you have- shown particularly on “Dirt Rich” and title track “Pawn Shop”. “Dirt Rich” kicks off the album, telling people in a tongue-in-cheek manner to appreciate things the way they are and making do with what you have even if they are not in an ideal condition. While this is a relatively common topic to approach in Country, the bluesy production of the track means that it will probably be one that goes down well live. “Pawn Shop”, meanwhile, continues the witty lyricism which, while lacking any real substance, is a fun track to listen to with its catchy guitar riffs once more.

In terms of the other album tracks there are definitely a few standouts. “Loving Me Back”, featuring Lee Ann Womack, is one of the more old-school Country songs on the album with its guitar solo opening setting the tone from the off. The stripped back nature of this track enables TJ’s baritone to particularly hit home but both sets of vocals complement each other as they harmonise about having “finally found something worth loving, that’s loving me back.” Together with “Greener Pastures”, it is these songs that showcase a more classic Country sound.

“21 Summer” is another nice offering by the band, largely due to its very chilled out sound and warm vocals from TJ, but probably won’t last long in the memory. The ballad sounds at times very reminiscent of a Newton Faulkner song due to its production but its steady tempo works well as they tell the story of a lost love and wanting them to have a great life.

It is the two closing tracks, “Heart-Shaped Locket” and “It Ain’t My Fault” that are particularly impressive. “Heart-Shaped Locket”, with its banjo and steel guitar accompaniment, is a mid-tempo song about suspicion in a relationship and is one of the songs that shows the potential of the band. “It Ain’t My Fault”, meanwhile, ends the album off on a bang. The up-tempo song with its heavy production will be a great song to see live. The chorus in particular is well produced, as the guitar cuts out to be replaced with hand clapped rhythms and backing vocals from British singer-songwriter Lucie Silvas as they sing “I got my hands up, I need an alibi, Find me a witness who can testify, You made a mistake, You got the wrong guy, I’m only guilty of a damn good time, No it ain’t my fault.” The song is insanely catchy and definitely one of the standout songs on the album.

For me there are also songs that are, however, not quite as enjoyable. The main offender for me is “American Crazy” which provides nothing of real substance, with lyrics such as “We’re lost, we’re found, we’re up, we’re down, we’re all just American crazy. We’re left, we’re right, we’re black, we’re white, we’re all just American crazy.” Its anthemic sound means that it will probably go down well when performed live, particularly over in the States, but it is not a song I will be drawn to when listening to the album on future occasions.

If the debut offering from Brothers Osborne is anything to go by, however, then there is optimism aplenty for their career in Country music. Pawn Shop is definitely what it says on the tin- Offering a number of different sounds in one package. There are some tracks on the album that do not quite hit the mark for me personally, in part due to the tropes being written about and lack of lyrical substance, but as always in the genre of Country music, it will be down to personal preference and there is something on this album for everyone.

The brothers are supremely talented and that is something that comes through throughout. The album’s organic production is also something worth taking note of and it is nice to see a new group not merging Country with RnB rhythms in their up-tempo numbers. TJ’s vocals are on point and are a joy to listen to throughout while John’s prowess on the guitar, that shines through particularly on the likes of “Stay A Little Longer” and “Down Home”, is definitely an asset and something that will distinguish them from other groups.  The duo have said that they want to carve their own path in the Country genre and if Pawn Shop is anything to go by then the signs are certainly positive for future projects.

  Track List
  1. Dirt Rich (John Osborne, TJ Osborne, Barry Dean)
  2. 21 Summer (John Osborne, TJ Osborne, Craig Wiseman)
  3. Stay A Little Longer (John Osborne, TJ Osborne, Shane McAnally)
  4. Pawn Shop (John Osborne, TJ Osborne, Sean McConnell)
  5. Rum (John Osborne, TJ Osborne, Barry Dean)
  6. Loving Me Back (John Osborne, TJ Osborne, Casey Beathard)
  7. American Crazy (John Osborne, TJ Osborne, Ross Copperman)
  8. Greener Pastures (John Osborne, TJ Osborne, Ryan Hurd, Maren Morris)
  9. Down Home (John Osborne, TJ Osborne, Jessi Alexander)
  10. Heart Shaped Locket (TJ Osborne, Lisa Carver, Andi Zack)
  11. It Ain’t My Fault (John Osborne, TJ Osborne, Jessi Alexander)


About the Author

Alex

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Hi I'm Alex, I'm 22 and come from Berkshire. I am a History Graduate and in my spare time follow my beloved local football team Reading FC and go to as many country gigs as possible. Some of my favourite country artists include Lady Antebellum, Brandy Clark, Zac Brown Band, Kacey Musgraves, Little Big Town, Blake Shelton and Carrie Underwood.