As the opening act for Eric Church’s massive Outsiders Tour, sibling duo Brothers Osborne have been introducing audiences across North America to their blend of rootsy country and classic rock. Their self-titled EP was released in September, and its debut single “Rum” climbed up to #27 on Billboard’s US Country Airplay chart. The duo are nominated for Vocal Duo of the Year at this month’s ACM Awards.
Last week, the brothers turned some heads when commenting on the current state of country music to Rolling Stone. “I think people are tired of the bullshit,” John Osborne said, “and ready for the real substance.” T.J. took it a step further, comparing today’s country music trends to the hair metal fad of the late eighties and early nineties. That bubble burst when Nirvana roared onto the alternative rock scene with game-changer Nevermind in 1991, and he thinks the same is happening now with newer artists who are coming onto the country music scene, such as Kacey Musgraves and Ashley Monroe.
Quite a bold statement to make for a brand new band. Their latest single, the beach-inspired “Rum,” wasn’t exactly a huge departure from the bro-country party anthems that have ruled country radio airwaves for the past several years. In fact, it was the lyrics on that song that prevented me from fully getting behind the popular notion that Brothers Osborne are one of the most promising acts coming out of Nashville these days, despite me loving the song musically. Still, the song helped introduce the brothers to mainstream listeners, and they were one of only a few artists to receive standing ovations at February’s annual Country Radio Seminar, so radio appears to be on board as well. And luckily, they’re proving that they have more substance to offer with their newest release, “Stay a Little Longer.”
Co-written by John and T.J., along with critically acclaimed hit songwriter Shane McAnally, the suggestive lyrics portray a new couple trying to play it cool with each other. The narrator tries to convince himself he’s not in love, but always finds himself wishing his new partner didn’t have to leave, that she could stay a little longer. Like “Rum,” it doesn’t stray too far from the themes that have dominated country radio recently, but a lot of that has to do with the writers not trying too hard to fancy things up. The story is simple and told in a simple, straightforward way, appropriately. It’s the combination of the lyrics, the music and the vocals that have got so many people sitting up a little bit straighter.
The song was produced by Jay Joyce (Little Big Town, Eric Church), who just won the ACM Producer of the Year trophy. I can definitely hear Eric Church influences in the production here, but John Osborne’s expressive playing and T.J. Osborne’s deep, gritty vocals are enough to set them apart from their peers. The musical interlude near the end sounds very Brad Paisley-esque, with wailing electric guitars overpowering the mandolin in the background. Traditional country fans or those who aren’t crazy about the rockier direction country music has taken lately will probably prefer the softer demo version of the song, but to be honest this song sounds like it will fit right in on the radio today, and not in a bad way. There is some real substance and character to this song, and it’s refreshing to see more and more artists coming out with material that has something more to say besides “Yay parties! Yay beer! Yay trucks! Yay girls in bikinis!”
With the bro-country trend finally beginning to ebb and listeners becoming more vocal about wanting to hear more variety on the airwaves, now is the perfect time for Brothers Osborne to release this song. I’m not in love with it, but I do now think this duo is one of Nashville’s most promising new acts, and I hope I’m not wrong in predicting this will be their breakthrough hit.