After a blinding performance at this year’s Country to Country festival – taking the audience by storm with their usual lineup of stunning original material as well as tackling the big ones with a cover of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody – Zac Brown Band are doing it again with another 10-track album packed with their signature big harmonies, pounding anthemic drums and superb instrumentation.
Clearly targeting radio audiences, “Welcome Home” has none of the 5 or 7 minute anthems that peppered their 2015 release “JEKYLL + HYDE”. In fact the penultimate track “Trying To Drive” is the longest of them all at a meer 4:26.
The first song “Roots” is a very middle of the road country standard, banjos, guitars and a smattering of strings. Safe lyrics about being in a band and loving the road, yet never forgetting “my roots” which “keep me grounded”. This song isn’t going to shock anyone, while opening the album with a reminder of why the band are such a force to be reckoned with. With a powerful chorus guaranteed to go down well with audiences everywhere, this is one you could definitely play to your nan without her getting too worked up.
Moving onto “Real Thing” – a sweet ballad starting out with a very punchy electric piano fading to a good ol’ steel string – we have another raised glass of Kentucky to American pride and ingenuity. You could certainly be excused for thinking this song was about the finer points of whiskey, and a very nice tune at that. Tap your feet my friends, for the second verse will change all that!
In tried and true country music tradition, Zac Brown and his merry men manage to compare 80-proof preservative to “An all American kind of fine” when the singer finds “a good woman”. Luckily it would seem, since they are apparently hard to find. Don’t worry though, ladies! I feel certain Zac and friends don’t think of women as simple chemical distractions that should be kept in barrels. Far from it! I feel certain they are referring to the crafted process which goes into creating a finely-bread all-American woman.
My personal favourite on this album sits at track 4. A traveling song by the name of “Two Places At One Time”, this one is punctuated by the lush harmonies and steady picked steel string guitars which have always endear ZBB to me.
Yet more Americana, the lyrics regret that the singer has been all around the world, and done things that no one would believe, but never really stops thinking of the US… Maybe because of it’s plethora of fine whiskey and rare but fine women.
The rest of the album is more of the same: Middle-of-the-road but very enjoyable country. Each and every song is carefully crafted to tentatively address themes of American beauty, family, American whiskey, casual drug taking by the sea (American?), starting over (maybe somewhere in America) and the personification of the American countryside (Country Roads, anyone?)
A trip through the tropes of the genre, Welcome Home exemplifies the finest that country music has to offer, and leaves the listener in no doubt where Zac Brown band want to be.
So, dear readers, if you’re not in the US and you see the Zac Brown Band perform, you can sing along easy in the knowledge that your country is sub-standard, your women aren’t up to scratch (even worse if you have the misfortune to be a woman), and you can take your sub-standard whiskey and use it to wash your second-rate non-American-made pickup truck.
While you’re doing that though, enjoy the music! Seriously, there isn’t a single song on this album that won’t at least make you tap your foot. Three-time GRAMMY winners Zac Brown Band sure know how to expand their discography, and this album is only the latest in a long line of successful hits from the multi-platinum masters of country music.