ZAC BROWN BAND, AND THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF COUNTRY MUSIC

Text by @KralTunes

I am not a fan of contemporary country music.  The twang, the “country rebels” that look like they just walked off of an Ambercrombie photo shoot, and the fact that 99% of male country singers sound EXACTLY alike…are kind of a turn off.  Not to mention, I defy you to find one country song that does not adhere to what I have dubbed the 10 Commandments of Country.

I. Trucks                                              VI. Lovin’ the troops

II. Beer/Whiskey                                  VII. Your hometown (which is small)

III. Hot country girls in summer            VIII. Partying it up in paradise (identified as the ‘Jimmy Buffett Syndrome’)

IV. The love of a good woman              IX. Some dive bar that everybody loves

V. ‘MERICA                                          X. and, of course, God/religion

(Disclaimer…This list is geared more towards the male country singer, whereas the female country singer {while they do stray into this territory from time to time} focus more heavily on southern-tinged lovey-dovey nonsense).

thSo why is the ZAC BROWN BAND (ZBB) my one hillbilly guilty pleasure? They are faithful to the Commandments, but they are also not afraid to veer off into unfamiliar territory and pull out an incredible 10-minute-mud-stomping-jam.  Their aptly titled release JEKYLL + HYDE’s new pile of songs will appease the fair-weather pop fans with the standard singles that everyone expects (the ‘LOVING YOU’-‘HOMEGROWN’ run is pleasant enough, and hits on commandments 2,4,7, and 10, to boot), but they will throw those occasional curves that real fans will love.  One minute,  ZBB’s got you sitting on the front porch of your little secluded acre of paradise, the next you’re chain smoking, sipping whiskey and be-bopping down the boulevard with the Rat Pack on ‘MANGO STREET’ (a pleasant surprise).  ‘HEAVY IS THE HEAD’ is a balls to the wall southern rocker featuring Chris Cornell, and now the album is starting to pick up some steam (at least I thought).

Unfortunately, the band reverts back to their successful formula too often with tracks like ‘CASTAWAY‘ (commandment no. 8), ‘ONE DAY‘ (no. 4), and ‘DRESS BLUE’ (no. 6).  Each of these tracks are constructed and performed quite well, but they offer nothing new.

The reincarnation of ‘JUKYARD’ is a welcomed, good ole’ fashion hootenanny (or is it hoedown?), and really showcases their fantastic musicianship.  Additionally, ‘I’LL BE YOUR MAN’ is a touching love letter to a daughter, and I guarantee it will chalk up countless plays for years to come at wedding receptions.

Overall, the boys put forth a good solid effort on JEKYLL + HYDE; it will certainly please their legions of fans on tour this summer. But to this fan, “HEAVY..’ was a tease and a few songs should have been left on the cutting floor (the American Idol auto-tune sounding  ‘BEAUTIFUL DRUG’ is something I never need to hear again).  Though ZBB continues to explore different sounds, they still keep everything grounded in the Good Book.

And with that, we conclude today’s sermon.  Go in peace…

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