John and TJ attribute that distinctive sound to their modest upbringing in the small town of Deale, Maryland, tucked into a corner of the Chesapeake Bay. Acoustic jam sessions became a regular occurrence in the Osborne household often lasting well into the night. For TJ and John, those informal gigs were a chance to cut their teeth as musicians, with TJ earning his earliest fans as a deep-voiced singer and John standing out as a first-rate guitar picker. Decades later, the siblings have sharpened that dynamic to a fine point, broadening and boosting their sound with help from a touring band of honorary brothers.

Skeletons marks TJ and John’s first time recording an album with their entire road band. The result is a true family affair, filled with inspired performances that shine a light on the chemistry generated by years of nightly shows (including the three sold-out shows featured on the band’s 2019 release, Live at the Ryman), communal bus rides, and backstage hangs. The boys kick up some serious dust with “Muskrat Greene,” a blast of electrified bluegrass that doubles as the band’s first full-blown instrumental song, and ride a funky, greasy groove with “Lighten Up.” They temporarily remake themselves into a jam band with “Hatin’ Somebody,” a swampy salute to togetherness, then turn up their guitar amps for the album’s big, burly title track. You can’t fake this kind of countrified connection.

In a town filled with some of the world’s best studio musicians, Brothers Osborne have distinguished themselves once again by turning inward, creating an album that showcases not only the songwriting talents of TJ and John, but also the instrumental slash-and-burn of their band’s full roster. While Brothers Osborne holed up in Jay Joyce’s recording studio to record the strongest
album of their career, though, the world outside turned strange and uncertain. A tornado blew a deadly path through Nashville in March 2020, barely missing Joyce’s studio by several blocks. Days later, as the coronavirus swept across the globe, the city — along with the entire country — closed down. Throughout the process, TJ and John faced their own challenges, too, their physical and mental health worn down by the demands of touring behind a Grammy-nominated album for nearly two years. Those struggles lent a seize-the-day immediacy to Skeletons.

“We were working against all odds — a pandemic, illnesses, a tornado – and you can really hear that fight in the record, in all the best ways,” John says. “We approached it as though we were making our last record ever.” That said, Skeletons certainly won’t be the last Brothers Osborne album. The boys have truly hit their stride, finding a sweet spot between the undeniable radio hits of Pawn Shop and the mature, career-building charisma of Port Saint Joe. They’ve been building momentum since 2014 — the year Pawn Shop’s first single, “Rum,” introduced a band of country-rockers who were ready to chase down mainstream success on their own terms — and these new songs find them picking up even more speed. With Skeletons, they’ve never been so full-blooded.

“We want this record to show people that we’re here to stay,” says TJ. “We are a part of the cloth of this genre. Ultimately, what we love to do most is play live, and Skeletons is setting us up to do that even better.”