I’m not sure how long ago it was that I stumbled across a link online, shortly after hearing them early one morning on Rick and Bubba, for the Zac Brown Band. I really liked what I heard and ordered a CD off their website. With the advent of MP3’s and online music services, it was probably the first actual CD I had bought in a long time. I can only think of one other artist whose album I could listen to from beginning to end and love every song. Some of you know who that is. I won’t mention it here for fear of being ridiculed mercilessly at the hands of those dislike this artist. Anyway, that first ZBB CD probably didn’t leave my CD player for weeks and weeks. It was just that good! The worst song on this album was very good. I told several people that there was no justice if this band didn’t make it big.
Well, guess what? They appear to have made it big! ZBB was nominated by the Academy of Country Music as Top New Artist of the Year and won the ACM award for Top New Vocal Duo or Group of the Year. They also had a number one country hit with Chicken Fried which has officially gone platinum. The first time I came across Chicken Fried on the radio I desperately wanted to tell someone “I told you!” But I was alone in my car at the time so I waited. Granted, I had listened to Chicken Fried somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 times by then and even really good songs get a bit familiar at that rate.
This current album, The Foundation, though not really what I’d call a departure from the first album, has a considerably more country feel to it than did Homegrown. Homegrown had more of a hard to classify sound with country undertones. It also had a bit more of a diverse sound. The opening track, Every Little Bit, sounds exactly like something you’d find on a classic Jimmy Buffett album. The track Heather has a sort of blues feel to it and a couple of guitar solos to match. Curse Me has lots of congas/bongos (forgive me percussionists, but I don’t know the difference)and is sort of a mid-tempo tune. These Days actually has some rapping, not by Zac, in it and Tax Man Shoes is, well, original to say the least.
The Foundation is every bit as good and better produced, but with a decidedly more consistent country feel to it. My personal favorite is Jolene, not the Dolly Parton one, and is one of the saddest songs I’ve heard in recent years. Ray LaMontagne did this song as well but I much prefer ZBB’s version. Toes and Where The Boat Leaves From again borrow from the Jimmy Buffett sound without sounding plagiarized. Mary and It’s Not Okay feature a lot of fast, bluegrass sounding guitar and are guaranteed to get your feet stomping. This album also spends a lot of time on the Zune and in the CD player. There are a couple of songs that make both projects and in those cases, the newer version is better.
Get both of these CD’s and you may not listen to anything else for a while. They are both excellent albums with expert musicianship and both are just a lot of dang fun! I’m not even a big country music fan, I tend to lean toward the older stuff in that genre, and these are two of my favorite CD’s in many, many years. Go online and check out ZBB’s website at http://www.zacbrownband.com and see for yourself.