Zac Brown Band Misses the Mark……Again

Posted by Greg on May 19, 2017 in Music |

On paper this was supposed to be the album that fixed everything. The one to quiet the naysayers, silence the critics and reengage those who were so taken aback by their genre-hopping most recent album. On paper, Welcome Home, Zac Brown Band’s sixth studio release should be a home-run. Studio maestro Dave Cobb was at the helm, the band returned to a more roots-based sound more like their debut The Foundation.

Welcome Home is indeed a firm return to their fiddle-backed roots sound, the problem is the songs leave a lot to be desired. Partnering with Niko Moon and Ben Simonetti for most of the songwriting, the album is saturated in saccharine valentines, down-home regular-guy tropes and shallow musings about the simplicities of life. Country music as a genre has never shied away from simple lyrics and simple themes, but the songs on Welcome Home are far too safe, far too vanilla and far too middle of the road.

Lead single “My Old Man” is a first-rate ballad and easily one of the album’s best, if not one of Brown’s best to date. Similarly, the sweetly affecting “Long Haul” is musically one of their strongest on this set and on par with many of the band’s previous singles. Sonically, “Family Table” is near perfect and draws on a genial message to deliver an age-old yarn about the importance of family dinners. The album loses focus though on the shallow singles “Roots,” “Real Thing” and the horribly corny “2 Places at 1 Time.”
Never content to firmly stay put in one genre, Brown tackles Caribbean flavors yet again on the mind-numbing “Start Over,” a song that revisits the exact same landscape as the band’s breakthrough single “Toes.” Sonically “Your Majesty,” delivers but is bogged down by ridiculously shallow lyrics.

The album’s strongest set is actually the final two. “Trying to Drive,” featuring singer-songwriter Aslyn is revisited after appearing on the band’s first live album Pass the Jar. INSERT NOTES HERE.

The most frustrating aspect of Welcome Home is that there is no way this the band’s best nine songs. In fact, since The Foundation, the band has yet to deliver an album that wasn’t short on filler. While Welcome Home is thankfully brief, its compositions as a whole fall far to short. This of course is nothing new for the band. While 2012’s Uncaged did win a Grammy for Best Country Album, there was very little of that album that was actually country. Ditto for 2010’s You Get What You Give. At what point does one begin to wonder if Zac Brown is really just a band with an identity problem.

That lack of identity lends itself to this very question: Where will Brown go next? His attempt at genre-bending hit its zenith on 2015’s Jekyll and Hyde and was met with mixed results. But genre-bending is nothing new to Brown. Though the band is labeled a country act they veer more towards southern rock but to date have touched nearly a dozen different genres by now. Being versatile and chameleon-like is a commendable thing, but at what point does the audience start to get discouraged, especially when a return to the band’s core sound fails to deliver in a very big way.

If there’s a silver lining to any of this, it is the fact that Zac Brown Band remains one of the strongest live acts currently touring. And perhaps that will be the band’s legacy: sub-par studio albums, first-rate live show. Guess you can’t be incredible at everything in the end.


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