To top Brothers Osborne’s 2016 album, Pawn Shop, would be an onerous venture—and with the release of their new album Port Saint Joe, they didn’t. Pawn Shop’s success was due to the upbeat, yet simple music, playfully reminiscent lyrics, and all-around high-quality sound exhibited on hit singles such as “Stay A Little Longer,” “Rum,” and “21 Summer.” None of the songs on Port Saint Joe has that spark of promise—no song on the record, at face value, is destined to be No. 1 on the charts. It’s pretty disappointing, actually.
You might be wondering why the album even earned three stars if it was such a disappointment. Port Saint Joe might not be anywhere near the level of Pawn Shop, however, one thing is constant: TJ and John Osborne are still extremely skilled guitarists, and flaunt it on nearly every track.
The album starts of with “Slow Your Roll,” which is one of the better songs on the record. It begins and ends with interesting guitar pieces—even though the chorus is somewhat drawn out, the duo’s mastery of the instrument makes it worth a listen. This goes for nearly all the songs on Port Saint Joe—named for the laid-back Florida town where it was recorded. Without the skillful guitar riffs and solos, they wouldn’t be worth the listen either.
“Shoot Me Straight,” the lead single off the album, is a fast-paced rock song that has some essence of “Stay a Little Longer” in the guitar parts, which are extended and well done. The song is an ode to whiskey (like much of the album), and basically begs for trouble and a dire hangover. “I’ve got some friends who’d love to go raise some hell / A couple old flames to help me bid you farewell / There’s plenty of time and alcohol / From happy hour to last call,” sings TJ, a clear lyrical change in direction from previous hit “Stay a Little Longer,” but catchy nonetheless.
“I Don’t Remember Me (Before You)” is one of the slower songs on Port Saint Joe. The lyrics are a step up from those on the rest of the album, as they are packed with clever lines and reminiscent sentiments—what the duo does best. Following “I Don’t Remember Me” is “Weed, Whiskey, and Willie,” which is quite possibly the dumbest song I’ve heard since “Red Solo Cup.” “I’ve got bottles and vinyl stacked to the ceiling / I get stoned for a living, it helps with the healing,” is the line the song revolves around. This song is the only one in which the great instrumentals don’t at all make up for the dumb lyrics. They really tried with that alliteration in the title, but it’s time to get a new songwriter.
One of the better tracks on the album, “A Couple Wrongs Makin’ It Alright” is fun and upbeat. It is packed with juxtapositions—in fact, witty contradictions make up the entire song. Cute lyrics such as “You’re mid-July and I’m late October / I’m drunk as hell, you’re stone-cold sober” resonate through the entire fast-paced tune.
“Drank Like Hank” is another song with a great beat but lyrics so imbecile it hurts—even the name of the song is cringe-worthy. The fact that a line in the chorus reads, “We partied like The Possum and we drank like Hank” goes to show how ridiculous the track is. Having said this, “The Possum” is not referring to the furry marsupial but to George Jones, but it still sounds absurd.
Port Saint Joe closes on a somewhat higher note. The lyrics improve without compromising John Osborne’s fantastic guitar riffs. “A Little Bit of Trouble” not only has a solid beat and good lyrics, but it also features interesting vocal effects during the chorus that add some oomph to the song. There are some captivating guitar parts at the end, which contains unique variations and stepdowns. Interestingly enough, the slow beat and unique cadence makes “A Little Bit of Trouble” sound a lot like Blake Shelton’s “Come A Little Closer.”
The last song on the record, called “While You Still Can” actually contains excellent lyrics. They are uplifting, sweet, and a little bit sad because they are so painfully retrospective. The song is somewhat corny and cliche, but it is still a solid track—especially compared to the rest of Port Saint Joe.
Port Saint Joe is a solid album only because it features plenty of the duo’s masterful guitar playing. But if you’re looking for a moving album, or one with lyrics good enough to bother listening to, look elsewhere—or even look to the band’s previous record.
Featured Image by Capitol Records Nashville