My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Tag Archives: Sara Bareilles

Album Review: Zac Brown Band – ‘Jekyll + Hyde’

Social-Profile-Icon-ndash-576-X-576-_zpslo9jbbovSince debuting eight years ago, Zac Brown Band has been a bright light on the increasingly barren landscape of mainstream country music. Ballads “Highway 20 Ride,” “Colder Weather” and “Goodbye In Your Eyes” join rompers “As She’s Walking Away” and “The Wind” as some of the strongest radio singles of the period. I’ve always loved Brown’s affable voice and his instance that fiddle prominently factor into the core of his band’s harmonic sound.

Still, the need for change has always been there. Zac Brown Band is quick to grow complacent, retreading musical ground when they should be pushing to elevate to the next level artistically. Uncaged, for example, beat their island-themed subset into the ground with the ear piercing “Jump Right In.”

Like clockwork, they’ve managed to do it again. Jekyll + Hyde is their widest album yet stylistically, covering everything from EDM and rock to jam band and, yes, more of those island rhythms. In turn, it mixes a hodge-podge of everything with a lot of retreaded ground.

The album opens with the wailing “Beautiful Drug,” which attempts to cross-pollinate by mixing EDM with acoustic country instrumentation. They venture into acid rock on the disastrous second single (it was a #1 on the Billboard Rock Chart) “Heavy Is The Head,” which features an assist from Soundgarden lead vocalist Chris Cornell. They further hone this sound on “Junkyard,” another slice of head pounding acid drivel.

Lead single “Homegrown,” while not a complete misstep, is the worst song they’ve ever sent to country radio. The suffocating production, complete with harmonies lifted from Eagles “The Long Run,” is only compounded by a lyric that’s too rudimentary to be interesting. Brown, Niko Moon, and Al Anderson ingeniously give third single “Loving You Easy” a catchy chorus to distract from the fact the song is nothing more than blandly warmed-over 1970s soft rock, a slower sonic counterpart to “Keep Me In Mind.” The jam band aesthetic continues on groovy love songs “One Day” and “Young and Wild.”

Brown employs a hoard of songwriters, a tradition in modern pop music, to help with two of the album’s tracks. “Wildfire,” which is co-written with Eric Church, follows in the same musical vein as “Homegrown” and feels primed to be a single. “I’ll Be Your Man (Song for a Daughter),” presumably written from Brown’s personal experience (he has four of them), explores a pop-leaning waltzing style complete with staccato beats.

The resurrection of their island-theme signature comes in the form of “Castaway.” A breezy ukulele and steel drum soaked jam that continues the escapism of “Knee Deep,” the song beautifully evokes the intended feeling in a way that feels somewhat fresh yet cheesy at the same time. They go a step further by fully exploring horn-laden Swing on “Mango Tree,” a duet with pop vocalist Sara Bareilles. The upbeat jazzy grove fits Brown like a glove, which surprised even me.

The remainder of the album showcases how Zac Brown Band fares when they revisit what they’ve already done musically, but with fresh eyes. Life affirming “Remedy” preaches love as the answer with ribbons of Celtic influence. Discourse continues on “Tomorrow Never Comes,” a bluegrass romp delivering the same central message as the Garth Brooks classic. “Bittersweet” tells a dark tale about lost love with a melody that recalls, but adds a bit more meat to, their penchant for tracks with a delicate acoustic softness.

The Jason Isbell composition “Dress Blues” is easily the album’s most hyped moment, a rare instance where a mainstream artist uses their platform to elevate the stature an independent singer/songwriter. The proceedings are marred by a production that favors slick over raw, but it doesn’t hinder the overall beauty of the song, which features harmonies by Jewel. It says a lot about the quality of an album when its strongest track comes courtesy of an outside songwriter.

Grade: B

Mixtape Time!

mixtapeI was talking to a friend yesterday morning, and he told me that I need to give him a mixtape so he can “assess my personality”- so I decided to try and make my mixtape to try and encompass all of the music I listen to in just a limited number of tracks, say around 15-20. It was pretty difficult, but I tried to cover the major artists I listen to (Sugarland, Lee Ann Womack, Nickel Creek, Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood, SHeDAISY, etc.) as well as outlying genres beyond country music (Radiohead, Neko Case, Alicia Keys, Jazmine Sullivan, etc.) and I think this is a great set of songs that really gives an intro to my musical tastes- and it was difficult to decide on these songs for sure.

Then I thought it would be interesting to post my mixtape here to display it, and I would like you guys to do the same! You guys can post yours in the comments, mine is just below.

“15 Step” by Radiohead
“Fallin’ “ by Alicia Keys
“Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” by Beyoncé
“Lions, Tigers & Bears” by Jazmine Sullivan
“Rattlin’ Bones” by Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson
“The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore” by Kathy Mattea
“Last Call” by Lee Ann Womack
“Fly Like A Bird” by Mariah Carey
“House Of A Thousand Dreams” by Martina McBride
“Coming Back To You” by Melinda Doolittle
“Desperation” by Miranda Lambert
“This Tornado Loves You” by Neko Case
“This Side” by Nickel Creek
“On Your Way Home” by Patty Loveless
“Gravity” by Sara Bareilles
“Don’t Worry ‘Bout A Thing” by SHeDAISY
“Very Last Country Song” by Sugarland
“Three Mississippi” by Terri Clark
“Wrong Side Of Memphis” by Trisha Yearwood

Click the link to hear the song- all of them are last.fm links except “This Tornado Loves You”, which is a youtube video. I hope you enjoy mine and post your own!

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