Release Date: May 12, 2017
Labels: No Reserve / Southern Ground / Elektra
Genres: Contemporary Country / Neotraditional Country
When the Zac Brown Band first came on the Country music scene way back in 2008, I was really excited for what they had to offer. Fronted by the band’s namesake, Zac Brown offered up to Country music what would not be exclusively offered afterward: a traditional Country sound with traditional Country content. That’s what attracted me to them in the first place. With the track “Chicken Fried,” they would rise up to fame in the quickest way possible.
They would then release their release their major-label debut album The Foundation later that year, an album in which I would say is among my favorite country albums of all time. I remember listening to that album when it first came out multiple times thinking that “Toes,” “Highway 20 Ride,” and “Free” would be really good radio hits. I was right about those tracks though I may have missed the mark with “Whatever it Is,” but you can’t tell me that I didn’t call the other three. I consider this album a favorite because it shows a classic side to Country music all the while incorporating their own beachy, Jimmy Buffett-esque style. That’s why I really loved that album.
While I would enjoy many songs from their follow-up You Get What You Give, I would find myself straying from the Zac Brown Band as well as Country music in general. While their next album Uncaged would contain the massive hits “Sweet Annie” and “Goodbye in Her Eyes,” I would still find myself not really immersing myself into what I thought was a very promising band. Then Jekyll + Hyde was released and my fears were amplified. While I understood the direction they were going for with this album with the varying genres throughout the album, it felt all over the place and very confusing at times. You can probably make the assumption that I was not a big fan of it.
So when I heard that they were working on a new album to be released in 2017, I was a bit hesitant to fully say that I wanted to listen to it. Then the single “My Old Man” was released and my hesitancy was gone. I really enjoyed the song and equated it to a song from their very first album: “Highway 20 Ride.” I was actually excited for a new Zac Brown Band album.
So how do I feel about Welcome Home, the new album by the Zac Brown Band? Honestly, a little bit underwhelmed, but I do think that it’s a step in the right direction.
There were two tracks on this album that I did not really enjoy as much as the others. “Start Over” is the first track I want to mention. It has the Zac Brown Band’s signature beachy country music style, and while I have enjoyed that very much in several past releases, I found it to be very lackluster. It seems as though it was thrown together last minute just to even out the track listing. It might even have something to do with the fact that it was co-written with Pharrell Williams. The other track I would like to mention is “All the Best.” While I was unaware at first that it was a John Prine cover, I really did not enjoy the song during my first few listens. After listening to the original version, I found myself respecting the cover even more, but there is still something about it that makes me not enjoy it that much. Maybe it’s just the way it was executed. It sounds very similar to the original. The background vocals by Kacey Musgraves are very crisp though and probably makes the track better than it could have been.
The first three tracks – “Roots,” “Real Thing,” and “Long Haul” – are really great openers to the album. “Roots” is a wonderful song about looking back on what makes you who you are now. “Real Thing” is probably the best, and my favorite, song on the album. It has a clever concept on what the “real thing” is, likening it to drinking a bottle of whiskey, experiencing true love, and a really good Country song. Definitely the highlighted track on the album. “Long Haul” is a very heartfelt song about a struggling relationship that has hopes of overcoming those struggles.
The other four tracks – “2 Places at 1 Time,” “Family Table,” “Your Majesty,” and “Trying to Drive” – are good songs, but they just don’t have the same appeal, in my opinion, that some of the others do. I would, however, prefer those four tracks over “Start Over” and “All the Best.” I would say that the harmonies are another high point throughout the album. The Zac Brown Band are definitely one of the best in today’s Country music scene that can do this well.
All in all, this album was good, but I wouldn’t call it great by any means. It definitely has some high points and it definitely has its low points. With an album like this released after their hodge-podge attempt in 2015, it certainly seems like a breath of fresh air to hear them go back to the sound that made them popular and their fans like to hear from them, but it certainly could have been better executed. Hopefully, this is a step in the right direction for them and their next album blows us out of the water.
Favorite tracks: “Real Thing,” “Roots,” “Long Haul,” and “My Old Man”
Least favorite tracks: “Start Over” and “All the Best”
Thanks for existing,