REVIEW: Brothers Osborne – ‘Port Saint Joe’

And so it has arrived…one of country music’s most anticipated releases of 2018, Brothers Osborne’s ‘Port Saint Joe’. There’s no stopping TJ and John right now; having just bagged the ACM award for Vocal Duo Of The Year and a tour with Dierks to look forward to, it’s looking like being another huge year for them. ‘Shoot Me Straight’ was the lead single from the project, a raw, gritty rocker that cracked up the anticipation for the rest of the album with an awful lot of power. After hearing that, I was half-expecting a heavier project in comparison to their debut album ‘Pawn Shop’, but what we’ve actually got is an album with a more traditional, laid-back approach that will raise eyebrows for sure.

‘Slow Your Roll’ kicks off the album, a bouncy, infectious tune to coincide with the album artwork, and it’s a chorus that becomes a real ear-worm after a few listens. It sets the tone for a for a very organic album that feels like it’s had very few studio alterations, almost feeling like a live recording in parts. There’s a beautiful summery theme to the project with songs like ‘Tequila Again’, an anthem for rowdy tailgate-partiers out there, and one of my personal favourites ‘A Couple Wrongs Makin’ It Alright’, a care-free, joyous moment on the album that’s just begging to be heard with good weather and a beverage!

There are also very deep moments that possess great quality too, the first of which is ‘I Don’t Remember Me (Before You)’ which is surely destined to be a future single release. The chorus screams country radio, and it’s 3 minutes 12 seconds of stunning southern-tinged country with an emotion-packed delivery from TJ Osborne. It’s the story of a changed man, looking back at life before that special someone came into his life, and it feels like TJ has lived every word, such is the quality of the vocal. It’s one of the most commercial-sounding offerings on ‘Port Saint Joe’ – only a matter of time till this one is topping the charts.

‘Weed, Whiskey and Willie’ goes right back to their traditional country roots and could quite easily have been recorded by the likes of Chris Stapleton. “When it all goes to hell, the only thing I believe in is weed, whiskey and Willie” – you can just imagine thousands of rednecks passionately singing along! The instrumentation is killer too; it starts off as a chilled out, Nelson-esque moody ballad, then the electric guitars gradually come in to add some real power to the track. ‘Drank Like Hank’ has a similar lyrical theme, albeit with a rocked-up, electric guitar-driven melody that will inevitably be a permanent fixture in their future set lists.

‘Pushing Up Daisies (Love Alive)’ is one of the album’s stand-out moments; love songs don’t come much better than this. “We’ll never get enough, we’ll be livin’ it up right down to the day we die…we ain’t gettin’ out of this love alive” – stunning lyrics from TJ and John, co-written with Kendell Marvel. I love the soulful feel to the track, it’s the epitome of everything I love about country music at its best.

The more I delved into the album upon the first listen, the more I became wrapped up in its warmth. It just gets better and better. ‘A Little Bit Trouble’ is the most experimental track on the album, and it fits them like a glove. There’s a heavy R&B/soul influence and it sees the brothers venturing into totally new territory, and it’s one of the big highlights on the album. Crank up the volume, close your eyes and lose yourself. But the absolute best is saved until last, with ‘While You Still Can’, co-written with Travis Meadows. All I can say is wow. A spine-tingling look at the shortness of life, it preaches a message to “take life by the hands”and live every moment like it’s your last. It’s something we can all relate to in our own way and for me, it brings back special memories of days gone by with loved ones that are no longer with us. It’s a song that they will be able to look back on with such pride twenty years down the line – one of those career-defining songs. It really is that good.

‘Port Saint Joe’ has already secured its place in our ‘top albums’ list at the end of the year, there’s no doubt about that. It’s so refreshing in the modern world of country music to see such a high-profile act sticking to their roots and refusing to be drawn into mainstream trends. TJ and John have well and truly pulled it out of the bag, and I can’t wait to hear the new material when they’re back in the UK next month.

Dan Wharton
@LifeInASong_Dan