It’s really rare that you find an excellent band from your home state when that home state is Maryland. Outside of Baltimore’s rap and psych-electric scene, there aren’t many well-known new acts who hail from the land of crabs and football. That’s fine—I’d made my peace with it.
Until I found The Brothers Osborne (not to be confused with ’60s band The Osbourne Brothers) courtesy of Paste’s recent The Best Of What’s Next issue. Just a tiny blurb on these two brothers, T.J. and John Osborne from Deale, MD, near the end with no sample track—probably because the brothers are, like much of farmland Maryland, not very plugged in and have provided very few ways to listen to their songs online. But the half-page of praise was enough to make me seek out their sound on YouTube, through a handful of live shows in their adopted hometown of Nashville and one excellently-shot teaser for their upcoming album.
And holy shit, am I happy I did.
It’s good ‘ol boy music—masterful finger-pickin’, both electric and acoustic, and the cornfield twang I grew up around that’s a little more authentic than most region-less radio country. But what sets the brothers apart from Skynard or Hank Williams or other classic southern rock outfits are the Chesapeake particulars: The reference to “the sound of high-tide thunder and your hair blowing in the breeze” in “21 Summer,” which bay and shore folk can feel coming from miles away; T.J.’s drawl on “lonelay” in the deeply heartfelt “Let Me Love The Lonely Out Of You“; John’s ambling, simple but striking electric solos which smart of local bar bands and long summer nights; and reminders to keep it light, not get too melancholy (as country can very often do), and “top it all off with the sun and mix it with rum” in “Rum.”
Marylanders are in a strange position—called northerners by most south of us, and southerners by most north of us, we’re middle ground in more ways than just geographic. There are no “Sweet Home Alabama”-type anthems for Maryland, no cowboy legends to reference, no catalogue of songs praising our cities or beaches or hidden landscapes (though these are all beautiful). It’s a state quietly appreciated by those who call, or at one point called, it home. This is how the Brothers Osborne approach their music: No claims to genre or specific sound. Just repurposing of the bluegrass, blues, country, and southern rock that surrounded them growing up in small town, very rural middle East Coast America.
What results is across-the-board relatable, subtly exceptional, down-home beautiful country. The kind you could let play through a backyard barbeque, local bar soundtrack, wedding reception, or quiet night on the porch watching heat lightning streak across a starless sky. Needless to say, “best of what’s next” is an appropriate label.