Tuesday afternoon, I was making my way home down South Limestone through University of Kentucky traffic with my windows down, when I self-consciously realized I had “Shoot Me Straight” from The Brothers Osborne’s new album playing a bit loud.
It probably won’t be the last time the music of “Port Saint Joe” pours out onto the streets and sidewalks as the weather warms up. The Maryland brothers’ new album, named for the Florida panhandle town it was recorded in, is perfectly timed for the coming of summer and to capitalize on the honor they just took home: vocal duo of the year at Sunday’s Academy of Country Music Awards, besting superstars Florida Georgia Line and these kids Tim and Faith.
Funny thing is the new record, which drops Friday (April 20), highlights something of a misnomer in that honor. While they create some great harmonies, the real duo of the Brothers’ collaboration is T.J.’s baritone and John’s guitar, which was the reason I inadvertently decided to share “Shoot Me Straight” with the afternoon commuter crowd.
The bluesy growl of the liquor-soaked song — there are a lot of them here, and to be fair, more than a handful of references to subsequent headaches — is one of several six-string flavors brother John offers up in the album’s 10 tracks. “Pushing Up Daisies (Love Alive)” is a wide-open sound as easy as St. Joseph’s Bay (I assume) and “Slow Your Roll” is a jaunty acoustic-electric walk in the sun. It should be noted that this album is summery without being intentionally beachy, something that seems to come naturally to the mid-Atlantic duo.
“Slow” opens the album with the brothers united, T.J. offering a clever growl sometimes reminiscent of Lyle Lovett in tone. His standout moments include the current single, “Weed, Whiskey and Wille,” and another country tribute, “Drank Like Hank.” The former, penned by the brothers and Laura Veltz, exemplifies some of the exquisite songcraft here: “My vices and heroes will hold me together when I’m lettin’ you go.” It’s also one of T.J.’s quieter highlights, along with “I Don’t Remember Me (Before You)” — a more positive perspective of Chris Stapleton’s “Up to No Good Livin’” — and the album-closing “While You Still Can.”
Brothers Osborne are clearly still trying on styles, seeing what works here, and there are a few missteps like the goofy “A Couple Wrongs Makin’ It Alright.” But all-in-all, “Port Saint Joe” is a sophomore success we’ll be cranking up well after we can’t quite remember what snow looks like.