“No matter what makes you country, you’re welcome here tonight,” host Luke Bryan said Wednesday night at the annual Country Music Association Awards.
This year’s CMAs reflected the kind of sensitivity to diversity, equity and inclusion that is sweeping the country. Not only did the ceremonies feature several black artists – from country music and outside the genre – but Jimmie Allen, a black singer, won the award for best new artist and the Osborne Brothers, featuring the first gay artist. from Nashville signed to a major label, grabbed Vocal Duo of the Year (for the fourth time), and TJ Osborne kissed her boyfriend live on the nationwide prime-time television network. It’s a first for country music, that’s for sure.
Life was a whirlwind afterwards, to hear TJ tell it. Shortly after collecting their trophies and delivering a touching speech, the Osborne Brothers performed a song about CMAs, then spent two hours behind the scenes doing “boring interviews.” But, apparently, they couldn’t really celebrate.
“This is where we party,” TJ Osborne announced Friday night at the Armory in Minneapolis.
No one is going to accuse the Osborne brothers of being revelers in the Armory. In concert they were solid, with quality songs delivered by TJ’s signature baritone and punctuated by John Osborne’s grainy bluesy guitar. However, it wasn’t until the last two issues of their 17-song set that the Osborne appeared to belong to an 8,000-seat hall.
TJ, 37, is a convincing singer with a deep voice (but not as deep as Josh Turner). His conviction was palpable on two affirmative songs – “Younger Me”, a brand new song about how being uncomfortable as a child helped make him what he is today, and “Not for Everyone”, an anthem that says it’s good to be different. John, 39, contributed to the vocal harmonies, but not in a magnificent Everly fraternal way.
The 90-minute performance seemed too reserved, too scripted. Things relaxed in an acoustic segment sitting on a couch in part because TJ forgot a lyric he wrote for “Weed, Whiskey and Willie” and had to stop and start over. It kind of took the singer off autopilot. For a change of pace, John took on the lead vocals on an exceptional rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”, with a final “scream” on bass and some sophisticated acoustic guitar choices and a full acoustic jam from the guitarist. group.
Speaking of spoiling, the Osborne brothers got it wrong on a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” by playing the opening verses by Tennille Townes and Travis Denning. Talk about disappointing.
The Osborne brothers, raised in Maryland, have what it takes to order a large piece. They have gear like ZZ Top type “Skeletons” and the “All Night” floating boogie, which they kept for the encore. It was an exciting treat designed for Halloween as the brothers and their five musicians frolic in outfits covered in luminescent paint (under black lights) with two 15-foot-tall skeleton puppets.
More action and more guitar would have brightened up the show. John’s intoxicating slide guitar passage was the perfect continuation of “Rum”, the duo’s almost beachy hit. Probably the most compelling musical moments came when John traded guitar hits with band organist Dane Farnsworth during “It’s Not My Fault”, a catchy southern rocker that sounded like a rallying cry.
As a guitarist, John Osborne has more fire than Keith Urban and more aggressiveness than Brad Paisley. But these country stars are singers who can shred, and he’s part of Brother Act, a talented duo that needs seasoning before they can take it to the next level.