A pair of siblings hailing from Maryland, the Brothers Osborne stand at the crossroads of mid-2010s Nashville on their 2016 debut Pawn Shop. One looks a bit like Sam Hunt and one looks a little like Chris Stapleton, so it's only fitting that Pawn Shop plays like a hybrid of Montevallo and Traveller, containing the modern rhythmic snap of the former and the classicist structure of the latter. In the hands of producer Jay Joyce -- best known for helming hits for Eric Church and Little Big Town, a résumé that suggests how this record balances outlaw swagger and pop smarts -- the Brothers Osborne can sometimes seem like the aural equivalent of reclaimed wood furniture: a spiffy re-creation of the past that's meant to appeal to modern tastes.
More than a quarter-century after Uncle Tupelo released the genre-defining No Depression, does the term “alt-country” still mean anything? If Brothers Osborne are to be believed, the current stagnation of Florida Georgia Line-derived mainstream country means it’s about time for the phrase to be resurrected. “I’ve always compared [modern country] to the early ’90s when hair metal was so huge, and you had these bands like Warrant, who were more about showing off and about the picture than they were about the music,” singer T.J. Osborne told Rolling Stone early last year.
This Maryland-spawned sibling act has been kicking around Nashville for a little while, winning listeners over with its spirited live performances. “Pawn Shop,” a long-awaited debut co-produced by the duo — vocalist-guitarist TJ and lead guitarist John — with the in-demand Jay Joyce (Little Big Town, Eric Church), lives up to and even exceeds the early buzz. The 11 tracks, all co-written by the Osbornes, expertly capture TJ’s beguiling baritone and John’s nimble fretwork, with fewer concessions to pop-country trends than might be expected from a major-label act.