I would first like to say that my experience with country music is very limited. Beyond some guilty-pleasure Taylor Swift or the occasional country song that finds itself toward the top of a music chart, I am generally not a country fan.
Therefore, it definitely means something for me to say that this was actually a pretty good album.
That said, there were definitely moments that weren’t for me, but I don’t think I’ve ever loved every song on any album.
I was ready to dislike it from the start, based on the album’s genre. Indeed, the album’s first single “The Wind ,” definitely fit my stereotype of twang-ridden, fiddle-infested country music.
The song’s cartoon-animated music video features lots of beer, swamps, tractors, guns, power-tools and other redneck paraphernalia.
At this point, I was definitely not impressed. Once I got past this song and a little deeper into the album, however, I was pleasantly surprised.
The Zac Brown Band incorporated elements and styles from a wide range of musical genres that gave many of the songs a fresh, unique sound.
There were times I forgot I was listening to a country album, particularly on the album’s title track, which had a driving bass line that I can’t get out of my head, in a good way. As an alternative rock fan, this song really had some appeal to me.
Another song on the album “Island Song ,” was almost pure reggae, with only a slight country twist in the chords and vocal style.
The strength of this band comes from their ability to create country fusion with other styles of music. I found these blended songs to be the most compelling, and found excited to see what style the next song would explore.
That said, several songs were entirely “too country” for me.
Though many of the album’s songs departed musically from a typical “country” sound, the lyrics definitely did not.
Even on tracks that didn’t sound country, such as “Uncaged ,” the lyrics are pretty classic country: “Gonna swim in the coldest river / Gonna drink from a mountain spring” … “Freedom is a gift worth living / Go chase that sunset highway down .”
While it certainly had songs and moments that were not for me, it had just as many that I enjoyed. There’s definitely something for everyone on this album, even if the whole thing isn’t your cup of tea.
If you’re looking to branch out musically, this is definitely an album to take a look at. It certainly has potential to be a gateway album to explore more country.
Download: “Island Song,” “The Wind”