There are only so many ways to tell the same story, but telling a story the way Jamey Johnson would is never a bad thing.
If there’s one review I’d like to have back from 2017, it’s my assessment of Brothers Osborne’s single “It Ain’t My Fault.” I took the song a bit too seriously, and interpreted the songwriting as lazy rather than tongue-in-cheek. Still, even my revised opinion of the song wasn’t great, and I was hoping for a bit more flavor from T.J. and John in their next effort. Said effort has just arrived with “Shoot Me Straight,” a demand for directness from a leaving partner, and honestly, it’s got a bit more kick than I expected.
The production still has the Outlaw-esque vibe of “It’s Ain’t My Fault,” but the electric guitars are given precedence over the percussion and bring a lot more funk to the table this time around. There aren’t a lot of other instruments here (some bass, some real drums, an occasional organ, and that’s it), but the guitars have more than enough body and attitude to fill the space. The atmosphere here is bursting with attitude and swagger, and while I wouldn’t call it the optimal fit for the subject matter, it’s a hard-hitting, high-energy mix that grabs the listener’s attention from the start and never lets go. (My one complaint with all this is the outro: As crazy as the guitars get, it’s way too long, and it lacks the fullness and energy of the rest of the song.) Perfect fit or not, I’m totally on board with this sound.
Lead singer T. J. Osborne’s vocal performance is a step up from “It Ain’t My Fault,” pulling off the best Jamey Johnson impression I’ve heard since Johnson himself graced the country charts. His delivery is a lot less stiff than before, featuring a bit more variation in both his tone and volume. The seriousness is still there, but at least this time it feels warranted by the material—after all, breakups are a pretty serious matter! Most of all, he’s got the chops and charisma to match the attitude of the production, and feels completely in character as an exasperated narrator ready to just rip the relationship bandaid off. (For his part, John Osborne does his best Brian Kelley impression vocally, but if that’s him on the guitar solos, he automatically leaps past Kelly, Kristian Bush, and even Kix Brooks as the most useful duo partner in recent memory.) All in all, I guess I’m totally on board with the vocals too.
As for the lyrics…honestly, it’s the same old don’t-sugarcoat-the-truth breakup song you’ve heard a hundred times before (Trace Adkins’s “Don’t Lie,” The Dixie Chicks’s “Let ‘Er Rip” (a Wide Open Spaces album cut) Luke Bryan’s “Someone Else Calling You Baby,”…heck, even Brett Young’s “Like I Loved You” has echoes of this sentiment). To be honest, the narrator falls on the slightly-unlikeable side of the spectrum, as he goes on about all the friends, exes, and alcohol that’ll help him get over the pain, and is so direct that it makes you wonder whether he cares if the relationship ends or continues. The writers try to use drinking analogies to make their song feel unique, but drinking is so ubiquitous in this genre that it doesn’t help a whole lot. I’m not totally on board with the writing, but in the end, as a wise man/culinary dish once said, two out of three ain’t bad.
“Shoot Me Straight,” for all it lyrical flaws, is probably my favorite Brothers Osborne song, and gives me hope that the duo has finally found a role in the genre besides being “the group that isn’t Florida Georgia Line.” The sheer attitude of the production and vocals overwhelm the shortcomings of the writing, and make it a tolerable listen on the whole.
Rating: 6/10. It’s worth a spin or two on the jukebox.