Disclaimer: This is my first CD review and I do not claim any expertise in bluegrass, bluegrass history or the Osborne Brothers. That said, the Osborne Brothers – Nashville is a great CD – start to finish. Apparently it was released by Pinecastle records as the fourth CD in a series documenting the Osborne Brother’s career. This is the final CD meant to document their sound at the height of their career in the mid-1970's after having established themselves in Nashville. The liner notes say that the seven tracks on the album recorded in the 1970's are previously unreleased. They got lost in the mix when the Osborne Brothers split with MCA/Decca at that time.
The personnel is a who’s who of Nashville session players backing Sonny and Bobby. The band members recording with them are Dale Sledd (rhythm guitar, vocals) and Robby Osborne (bass). The session players are heavyweights. To name a few – Dennis Digby (Loretta Lynn) electric bass, "Pig" Robbins, piano, Vassar Clements, fiddle, Leon Rhodes (Ernest Tubb’s "take it away Leon"), Hal Rugg (steel guitar) and Ray Edenton (rhythm guitar). As you can tell, this is not straight acoustic bluegrass. It’s the Osborne Brothers at their best playing their signature countrified bluegrass. From what I’ve heard, they were the last bluegrass act to get any real air play on county radio. One listen to this CD and you can see why. Its just good listening music.
The first track "Gonna Be Raining When I Die" is worth buying the whole CD. Sonny Osborne’s bluesy banjo just rips it up against Bobby’s powerful lead vocals. The trio singing and pedal steel backing on the two Louvin Brothers songs ("When I Stop Dreaming" and "My Baby’s Gone") are enough to make you drive off the road. They just nail it. The other numbers are just good country songs – full of themes of hard country living with strong vocals, understated piano, fiddle and electric guitar backing set atop a rock solid rhythm section.
“My Baby’s Gone”
Worth mentioning is the 1995 recording of "Half a Mind." (I always associated the song with Ernest Tubb – who knew Roger Miller wrote it. The more I listen to and learn about that guy the more I am convinced he was talent of the highest order. But that’s for another day.) Its an acoustic band and has Terry Eldridge (Grascals) singing the third part and playing rhythm guitar, Terry Smith (Grascals) on the upright bass and the late Gene Wooten on dobro. It’s a slow version of the song with a powerful lead vocal, tight harmony (did the Osborne Brothers ever not have tight harmony) and Sonny soloing on the guitjo (which sounds like an acoustic guitar to me). Its probably the best version of the song I’ve ever heard. Slow and from the heart.
Overall it’s a great CD. My only complaint is that there are only eight songs. Seems a little light. That said, the singing, picking, arrangements and production are first rate.