Best Round Ever: Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, and Josh Osborne
In Nashville, there are great songwriters and big hitmakers. In the space where those two populations overlap, that’s where you’ll find Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, and Josh Osborne. And what an absolute pleasure it was to spend a Tin Pan South evening with them at 3rd & Lindsley, a show that Clark dubbed Two Gays and a Guy (after her manager suggested the threesome needed a reality TV show by that name).
Osborne got the round going with “Leave the Night On,” the number one hit he and McAnally penned with and for Sam Hunt. Clark countered with the Miranda Lambert chart-topper “Mama’s Broken Heart,” which she and McAnally wrote with Kacey Musgraves. Come McAnally’s turn, he threw down his recent and wonderful Kenny Chesney hit, “American Kids.” And we were off to the races.
After Osborne offered up “Drunk Last Night,” he teased Clark that she was “sandwiched between the two biggest hitmakers in town, which is just how you like it… well, not exactly.” Admiring Osborne’s quick wit, Clark said, “That’s Josh at his finest.” Indeed, the trio’s sharp and sly humor flowed as freely as did their many hits. They so obviously admire and adore each other, it’s impossible not to get swept up in and enjoy their conviviality. But the show must go on, and go on it did.
As Clark made her way through “Big Day in a Small Town,” with McAnally gleefully singing the guitar lick she admittedly couldn’t muster, the crowd went crazy for lines like, “Somebody went to Wal-mart in nothing but a nightgown. It’s a big day in a small town.” Osborne and McAnally then co-narrated the story behind their co-authored “I Really Shouldn’t Drink Around You” before things wound back around to Osborne and Clark’s “Whatever Way It Hurts the Least,” a gorgeous ballad set to appear on Reba McEntire’s new album. Clark continued the new song trend with “We’re Broke,” a tune that is almost too clever for its own good… almost. The same could be said for the new Clark-McAnally-Musgraves single “Biscuits” which was rendered by Musgraves herself in a surprise appearance. She, too, is part of this particular mutual admiration society and not at all shy about saying so.
Osborne followed up with another Sam Hunt cut, “Take Your Time,” and Clark reprised her Grammy Awards performance of “Hold My Hand” (albeit without Dwight Yoakam), after which McAnally said that it was one of the greatest country songs ever written. He then revisited another of the group’s Grammy moments with “Follow Your Arrow,” with Musgraves in the front row leading the chorus shout-outs of “Yeah!” and “Hey!” When McAnally came to the “roll up a joint” part in the final chorus, Musgraves leapt out of her seat and hollered “I would!” simultaneously with Shane pointing at her singing, “We know who would” before adding, “Oh, we know what’s in your sparkly purse.” Welcome to the New Nashville, ladies and gentlemen. Coaxing Musgraves back on stage to sing harmonies, Osborne completed their Grammy trinity with “Merry Go Round.”
Leading into “Better Dig Two,” Clark, then, told the story of how she first met Musgraves when they brought her in to sing the song’s demo. After McAnally kept the funny flowing on “Fuzzy,” Osborne turned the tide for the sweetly sentimental “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” the unrecorded cut Keith Urban recently premiered at CRS. Though Clark was sincere in her praise for the tune, saying how it’s hard to follow songs that good, she quickly quipped, “It’s not like I have a Song of the Year to whip out… Actually, I do. But Shane already played it.” Instead, she gave the sardonic “Get High” a go, much to the audience’s delight. Introducing “Songs about Trucks,” McAnally teased that it “was not a big hit. But if you want to hear my hits, you can just turn on the radio.”
For the final go round, Osborne chose Blake Shelton’s new single, “Sangria”; Clark went with “You Can Come Over,” a song previously recorded by Craig Campbell that is likely to be on her new album; and McAnally closed with Lady Antebellum’s “Downtown.” Throughout their turns, all three sprinkled in advice to songwriters and messages of gratitude drawn from their fairly recent rise to glory. In a town where egos and attitudes compete for airtime, it’s refreshing to see such amazing chemistry and camaraderie between folks who are so incredibly gifted and gracious. I’d watch Two Gays and a Guy any night of the week.