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Pardi experiences ups and downs, Brothers Osborne don't

House of Blues, Boston, January 14, 2016

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Jon Pardi bounded onstage in his first headlining gig with something you don't often see at a country show - a cowboy hat. In days gone by, singers used to wear the hat as if it automatically placed them in the legion of artists whose country cred were unchallengeable based not on their music, but on their outfit.

Poseurs were branded as "hat acts," a slur against the false singers.

Years later, Pardi couldn't be accused of being a faker when it comes to country, but he straddles the line a bit too much live between a more overt country sound and rock.

And it took awhile for Pardi to get untracked. He started off well enough with "Missing You Crazy" from his debut before, but a few songs ("Empty Beer Cans") were ordinary.

He did eventually hit his groove with such songs as "When I've Been Drinking" and "Chasing Better Days" and "Happens All the time" with Andy Elliston on pedal steel, another instrument not heard these days at country shows.

The show gave Pardi, who released a very worthy six-song interim EP last year after putting out his debut two years ago to the day, the opportunity to sing new songs. His new single, "Head Over Boots," was the first song of the encore and veered more towards the country side and came off well. Another new song, "Cowboy Hat," did not. Despite its title and mentioning "country," it wasn't particularly country sounding or musically enticing.

For some reason, Pardi decided to cede the mic to lead guitarist Terry Lee Palmer, who was a forceful axe man. The problem wasn't so much the singing; it was the song. Palmer did his best AC/DC imitation in belting out "Shook You All Night Long." This wasn't any sort of countrified version , but more like a bar band cover. What it was doing at a purported country show was perplexing.

Pardi also turned in a less than stellar version of the Eagles' "Life in the Fast Lane" coupled with a rocking version of Dwight Yoakam's Orbison sounding "As Fast As You" during the encore. Opening act Brothers Osborne came out to sing and play guitar. Pardi was simply not up to snuff in taking vocals on the former, and the latter lacked the drive and tension with which Yoakam attacks the song.

Despite releasing a quality CD and EP, Pardi was a bit uneven. Perhaps he needs to decide whether he should wear the hat or not.

Brothers Osborne had plenty of reason to celebrate on this night - their debut disc, "Pawn Shop," would be out the next day. Whether that upped their performance, they sure turned in a well put together 45-minute set.

For starters, they have a batch of high quality songs that cut to the musical chase pretty darn quickly. The songs are focused, melodic and rock more than they are country, but the brothers also have of a bit of an outlaw country thing going on about them.

While TJ Osborne lashed out when challenged online about their country bona fides, their country songs had sorta, kinda of sufficient country quotient ("Loving Me Back" was a softer song).

TJ Osborne is one superb, confident singer with a voice that makes you think he is the son or maybe even twin of Trace Adkins. Osborne can get down really deep, and it's a vibrant voice.

Brother John handled the lead guitar chores, and that didn't seem to take all that much effort either because his paying was fluid, sometimes on the steely, almost twangy side, and quite sharp.

Curiously despite having a new disc at hand, only five of the nine songs they played were from the debut, closing with their hit, the softer percolating "Stay a Little Longer."

And they are to be commended for their choice of covers, although with a caveat. "Hey Good Lookin" from Hank Sr. and The Band's "The Shape I'm In" were both on target with the latter a little less rootsy. They also threw in a few licks of Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" on "Greener Pastures." However, TJ earlier had proclaimed that covers were "bullshit" and "cheated" the crowd. In this case, actions spoke louder than his hollow words.

Brothers Osborne, both on their disc and live, deserved to be in high spirits. It was one good night for them.