Brothers TJ and John Osborne are back with their third studio album, ‘Skeletons’, which continues their long-term collaboration with renowned producer, Jay Joyce. With their first two albums, we witnessed the grittiness and the versatility of their output, but ‘Skeletons’ opens up a whole new dimension for the duo, and it feels like the most categorically ‘Brothers Osborne’ collection to date, steeped in filthy southern rock riffs and no-shits-given attitude. It feels like the brothers have well and truly found where they belong in the genre, and they’re proud to cement that place.
“If Pawn Shop was our introduction, and Port Saint Joe was like the first conversation we had with someone over a beer, then Skeletons is the moment where you start getting down to the real stuff and showing who you really are,” says John. “If you really want to get to know us, this is the record to do it.”
From start to finish, this record is a pure experience that leaves you feeling like you’ve been on a journey. There’s a beautiful quality to a project which has been so carefully crafted, and so much thought has been given to the sequencing; it’s a complete package that showcases all facets of the duo’s skill. Right from the off, with ‘Lighten Up’, we’re lured into a false sense of security with the gentle, acoustic opening, before the track explodes into life, and the volume rarely ceases from there. A sure-fire live show opener, it’s a killer start to a loud, confident collection.
‘All Night’ sees the brothers experimenting with a funk-country fusion that shows off the cheeky, letting-loose side to their songwriting, and it’ll no doubt become a big fan favourite over time. We all need a country party song in our lives right now, and this is a fine example. Speaking of good-time songs, ‘Back On The Bottle’, with its care-free, unapologetically playful vibe, is the ultimate tune for those late night country festival parties. The changes in tempo initially take you by surprise but it’s pure genius – Sturgill Simpson ‘Long White Line’-esque in the verse, and a Brad Paisley ‘Alcohol’ feel in the chorus. Love it.
The title track, ‘Skeletons’, really feels like the anchor of the record, and it was the first song the guys wrote in preparation for the new album. As far as country-rock bangers go, this is one of the best out there, and will become a staple in their energetic live shows. It’s one of those that draws you in and explodes into life, and sums up everything there is to love about Brothers Osborne. Gritty, in-your-face and an absolute classic.
Aside from the heavier rock-leaning tracks, the countrier moments on the album offer some real moments of substance and depth. The brothers always add one very soulful track to their albums – ‘21 Summer’ on the debut, and ‘I Don’t Remember Me’ on Port Saint Joe – and on ‘Skeletons’ we have the gorgeous ‘High Note’, co-written with Casey Beathard and Dustin Christensen. A classy, incredibly-written song about that moment when you know a relationship has come to the end of the line.
“While we’re up here, let’s just fly
While we’re smiling, you go your way and I’ll go mine
Before the smoke clears, let’s agree that’s all she wrote
Let’s say goodbye, say goodbye on a high note”
Likewise, ‘Make It A Good One’, the co-write with Stephen Wilson Jr., is one of the album’s finest moments and could be a strong choice for a radio single. These moments are where Brothers Osborne truly shine, and with the likes of ‘Muskrat Greene’ (John’s moment to shred) and the energetic ‘Dead Man’s Curve’, they have the ingredients for a pretty badass trad-country album, if they so wished. But that’s the beauty of a Brothers Osborne album – they keep you guessing at every turn, and every song is an experience.
Finishing with the laid-back, touching ‘Old Man’s Boots’, it completes a wholesome, well-rounded collection that is simply a joy to stick on repeat. It’s difficult to compare three very different albums from Brothers Osborne so far, but this is probably at the top of the pile.