T.J. and John Osborne look like brothers of different parents. The duo that goes by Brothers Osborne comprises T.J., lead vocalist, who looks more like Adam Levine of Maroon 5 than a country music star; and John, who looks like an extra from “Duck Dynasty” or the lead singer for the Spin Doctors.
Together, however, they perform the kind of country music that straddles modern fashions and classic traditions. Some of it is pop, some of it is rock with banjos, some is a throwback to outlaw country and country soul; all of it is polished mainstream appeal.
Thursday night, Brothers Osborne headlined a show at the Uptown Theater, drawing a crowd of more than 600, and for 90 minutes the brothers and their band delivered a set that showcased their songwriting, keen vocals and musicianship.
The bulk of the set list came from “Pawn Shop,” their debut full-length album, released in January. It included the Grammy-nominated “Stay a Little Longer,” a song about lust, sex and elusive love and one of several songs that elicited a loud singalong.
But the brothers take their music into lyrical terrains that aren’t so mainstream or family-friendly, as they did in the breakup anthem “Greener Pastures,” an outlaw country tune in which “green” has more than one meaning: “So you can plant your garden where you used to chew my ass / Yeah, I don’t want this dirt no more, I’m trading it for grass.” As they sang that song, the many TV/video screens behind them broadcast images from “Reefer Madness.”
The brothers are natives of rural Maryland and graduates of Belmont University in Nashville, their portal into country music. T.J. Osborne sings with a deep, expressive, bottom-of-a-cistern baritone that helps give their music its traditional flavor. John, the older of the two, is bound to become renowned for his guitar play, which is rich with both flash and tone, skills he exhibited throughout the set.
They added several covers to their set list, including “Goodbye Earl,” the playful murder anthem the Dixie Chicks made famous; a Southern-rock spin on “Whiskey River,” which ended in a full-throttle guitar jam; a straight rendition of John Denver’s “Country Roads”; a bluegrass version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City”; and, after someone bellowed for it, a few raucous measures of “Free Bird.”
The rest of the show was dedicated to their own material, like “Down Home,” a Southern-rock anthem about a place that gets darker in more ways than one after the sun goes down; and “Shoot From the Hip,” a Western-themed rock/blues number embroidered with banjo that declares: “Sometimes the only peacemaker / Is a hairpin trigger in a finger tip.”
They closed with the “Arms of Fire,” a modern-country tale of love on the verge of infatuation; the hop-in-the-truck party anthem “Let’s Go There”; then “Loving Me Back,” in which John Osborne sang the lines Lee Ann Womack sings on the album. That one teems with an old-school country-soul vibe and is evidence as apt as any that these brothers’ aim is for something deeper and higher than bro’ country.