How do you keep contemporary country music fresh? According to the Brothers Osborne, two siblings hailing from Maryland, the answer lies somewhere in classic country licks, distinctly blue-collar flavour and a whole ton of attitude. Their debut album Pawn Shop showcases their distinct talent as both songwriters and storytellers over a backdrop of wailing guitars and shuffling, bluesy rhythms.
Opener Dirt Rich establishes the blue-collar tone of the album, with the brothers setting the scene of a less than picturesque house and recommending to “learn to live with it, and like it just the way it is”. This notion of working-class life, and learning to be content with life’s simple pleasures, is continued throughout the rest of the album, with titular single Pawn Shop a particular standout: a greasy, grinding pastiche of slide guitar with singer TJ moodily examining the supply and demand of having to hock guitars, lamenting that “one man’s pain is another man’s pleasure”. TJ’s gravelly baritone seems to completely capture the Brothers’ musical aesthetic, at once gruff and somehow vulnerable. However TJ’s voice would be nothing were it not paired with his brother John’s guitar expertise. Take the devilishly skilful slide work on the opening strains of Down Home or Pawn Shop, or the choppy rhythms of Rum. Most impressive is his three-minute long solo at the ending of lead single Stay A Little Longer, a run which would be self-indulgent were it not so brilliant.
There’s something refreshing about the album’s simplicity: the playful production and straightforward, if downright clever, lyrics prove that the Osborne brothers don’t need any gimmicks or fancy instrumentation. Although the country tradition of celebrating the everyday man is almost cliche, this is an album which really does capture that quintessential southern identity.