Country music is an acquired taste; it’s not for everyone. Often harped on for dwelling on repetitive guitar rifts and song subjects and for their inability to progress beyond the stagnant barriers of the American Country music is an acquired taste; it’s not for everyone. In fact, it’s often harped on for dwelling on repetitive guitar rifts and song subjects and for its inability to progress beyond the stagnant barriers of the American South.
Zac Brown Band’s 13 top ten country hits make them a staple in country music, and their new album Jekyll and Hyde makes them a grade A band in my book. It breaks the mold of their previous three country-rock LPs, such as their most recent album Uncaged, in more ways than one.
Experimenting with genres such as blues in “One Day,” reggae in “Castaway” and gospel in “Remedy,” Zac Brown Band takes the album title Jekyll and Hyde quite literally. I definitely feel like I’m firsthand experiencing an identity crisis. But Brown’s smooth, flexible vocals allow the band to easily tackle the vast array of genres with unquestionable grace.
But it wasn’t done alone. Zac Brown Band collaborated with several other artists in certain music genres to achieve this all-encompassing musical concoction.
Pairing with Sara Bareilles for their song “Mango Tree,” a throwback to swing music, the artists pay tribute to the beauty of 1940’s authentic instrumentals with class. Then, taking a complete left turn into classic rock, the band couples with Chris Cornell to produce “Heavy is the Head” dominated by electric guitar solos and drumbeats.
The best thing about this album is their homage to raw music untouched by Auto-Tune and electronic inputs, whereas most modern day music depends on soundboard variations to give it pizzazz.
Zac Brown Band actually highlights natural instruments, giving them overlays and solos so they are more poignant within the songs. The violin in “Dress Blues” underscores the country-blues feel and conveys the solemn tone of the song beautifully.
Some may debate on lyric originality when referring to Zac Brown Band. They’re probably referring to some of their older songs like “Chicken Fried,” which opens with “You know I like my chicken fried / and a cold beer on a Friday night.” Obviously, this is not groundbreaking stuff.
But in Jekyll and Hyde they took a surprising turn for the better. By tying in music genres with the content of each song, they managed to create decently original storylines.
There are some pitfalls, as seen in “Castaway,” in which Brown relishes the relaxing feel of being on an island vacation, “cause time flies by and soon we’ll be older.” I would say people can relate, but it’s not something people will label as lyrical genius.
Overall, the album is a musical gold mine. The individual songs are well-done, encapsulating many genres. It’s definitely something the country genre name needs underneath its belt, but it’s a thematic dropout.
The one thing I’d say is you’ll have to have some pretty eclectic taste for this album to meet your needs. But if you find yourself in a Jekyll and Hyde situation, this will suit your fancy.