The key moment on this album comes at the start of ‘A Couple Wrongs Makin’ It Alright’. The southern country rock mix that we’ve been groovin’ through suddenly breaks out into Motown funk stylings, all wah chops and Nile Rodgers clean vamps. The Brothers Osborne might have ‘Deep South’ stamped across them like crates of Jack Daniel’s, but they’re masters of more than one genre, and this album is a celebratory gumbo of everything from lonesome-road Merle Haggardliness to full-throttle Skynyrd riffage.
Opener ‘Slow Your Roll’ is a straight-up joy. Strolling along with a wide grin and a cool beer in its hand, it dishes out rich harmonies, pretty little B.B. King licks and group chants with obvious glee. There’s lots to like here, particularly as the sun has decided to make an appearance in dowdy old Britain this week – this is the music your barbecue needs.
‘Shoot Me Straight’ comes next, and injects some meanness and bark into proceedings. The guitars are more muscular, the riffs more Blackfoot-y. The vocals are squarely aimed at the US’s mysteriously enormous country radio market, but the band is playing to a pit full of hairy headbangers. Even better, after the statutory three minutes of fun, rather than quietly putting the riff to bed, the Brothers extend the song over a further long coda of growling funk and soaring solos – perhaps a nod to jam masters Gov’t Mule. The guitars and Hammond organ battle it out, sparring like fencers, and the song builds to a huge, Free Bird climax.
By contrast, ‘I Don’t Remember Me (Before You)’ takes us deep into lighter-waving ballad territory, mining the South’s deep seam of manly emotion. Southern boys ain’t afraid to cry, y’all, and on tracks like this, the Osbornes give us plenty of from-the-heart earnestness. It’s the bit in the gig where the girls lean their heads on the boys’ arms and sway a bit. All very nice, although not particularly boundary-stretching.
The deceptively titled ‘Weed, Whiskey and Willie’ continues in the thoughtful vein, but adds some delicious John Mayer-style Strat work. In a sense, that’s the core strength of this album – it treads very well-worn boards, but it brings enough that’s original to make itself seem fresh and interesting. ‘A Little Bit Trouble’ draws on the grand heritage of Nashville (the Brothers’ adopted hometown) for a big, spacey R&B bliss-out. ‘Drank Like Hank’ kicks off with a riff AC/DC would be proud of, and then gallops through a bar-room choogle that, while derivative, is a whole lot of beer-in-the-air fun. ‘While You Still Can’ goes right for the weepy farewell, reminding you to hug your ol’ lady before she just ups and dies.
Port Saint Joeis an assured tour through the roots and fringes of the South’s rich musical culture. Whatever your preferred tonal tipple, the Brothers will have something for you here (well, within reason – you’re probably not going to find any gangsta rap). Tune in, turn up, chill out.