Pawn Shop

by: Brothers Osborne

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. Occasionally, this provides a little bit of a disorienting cultural disconnect -- there's a swagger that doesn't jibe with the weathered twang, or maybe it's vice-versa -- but there's also a kinetic kick to their time warp because the Brothers Osborne are cannily perched at the precipice separating the past from the present, suggesting how nothing fades away in the digital age and nothing is new. Pawn Shop never dwells on such contradictions. It rolls along, easing from funky little workouts to immaculate ballads, the duo benefitting from a heightened sense of craft aided in part by the collaborations of such pro songsmiths as Craig Wiseman, Barry Dean, and Shane McAnally. When things slide into softer areas, this skill can be a double-edged sword, moving the duo dangerously close toward suggesting a glibness reminiscent of latter-day Big & Rich. The Brothers Osborne usually dodge this cutesy trap thanks in part to Joyce's canny production -- it's busy, but never overstuffed -- but primarily due to the duo's understated charm. Sanded and varnished though they may be, the pair feel fresh, their chemistry easy and natural, so they pull off their spiffy retro act with style. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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