Zac Brown Band Promise Return to Their Roots on New Album

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On their latest album Jekyll + Hyde, Zac Brown Band certainly caught a lot of people off-guard with the new sounds and stylings presented on it. While there were some songs that stayed true to their usual sound, they also experimented with rock and EDM music. In my review of it, I had mixed feelings at best. At worst I was furious over there choice to make “Beautiful Drug” a single and to renege on their promise to not release this type of music to country radio. Well now the band is essentially saying that Jekyll + Hyde was a one-off. And they promise to go back to their roots.

Announced via Twitter and press release, Zac Brown Band first announced that Jekyll + Hyde has now been certified platinum and their debut album The Foundation has now been certified platinum five times by the RIAA. This segues right into the announcement by Brown himself that they’re getting set to make a new album. His exact words:

“We’re going in this winter to make a brand new ZBB record, straight back to our roots, Foundation style. It’s going to be an amazing album and we’re very excited to announce to you that we’re making the new one.”

You can see the video yourselves below. First snap reaction to this is this is great news on many levels. I was personally worried that Jekyll + Hyde would be the start of a new sound for Zac Brown Band. Luckily they’re going back to what made them big and so beloved in the first place. Brown going so far to say “Foundation style” is very encouraging and it should be a clear sign they’re not doing anymore EDM music, at least on their albums. While The Foundation wasn’t their best record, it was firmly grounded in a country and roots rock sound. It also put them on the map and on the path to becoming household names in music.

This isn’t just good move though from a critical and sound point of view. This is also pretty smart from a business point of view, as I think it’s safe to say the singles in the Jekyll + Hyde era have been the worst performing in the entirety of the band’s career (ironic considering how business-minded this album came off as). It got off to an excellent start with “Homegrown,” without a doubt the biggest hit off Jekyll + Hyde. It dominated both radio and sales, sitting at #1 on the airplay charts for multiple weeks and has nearly double the sales of the next closest single off the album. This was also the single closest to the band’s roots. The sophomore single “Loving You Easy” did pretty well at radio too, despite sales not being as strong. The third and most polarizing single “Beautiful Drug” took forever to climb the airplay charts to achieve a hollow-feeling #1 status. Surprisingly, this is the second best selling single from the album. Now the current single “Castaway” is struggling at radio and will be lucky to reach top ten, depending on how much the label wants to push it.

So no matter how you slice it, this is a great move for all parties involved. With the recording of this new album taking place this winter, it’s safe to say that it will be released sometime in 2017. If I had to guess it would be sometime in mid to late summer, with the lead single coming out sometime early in the spring. It’s highly possible there will be one more single released from Jekyll + Hyde (I’m predicting “I’ll Be Your Man”). When new details emerge on this album, we’ll let you know. In the meantime, what do you think of this news from the Zac Brown Band?

Album Review – Tim McGraw’s Sundown Heaven Town

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I don’t like the trend of country music loading albums with a large number of songs. I understand that album sales aren’t as lucrative and sustaining as they used to be. I understand that artists see the most money from ticket sales. And I know that it’s easier to pile songs onto an album than to release radio singles over the course of a couple of years while on a long tour, but I don’t like it. Filler songs take away from the album’s overall impact. Say what you will about Blake Shelton, but at least that guy cuts 11 or 12 songs for his records to make them cohesive. The deluxe edition of Tim McGraw’s new album, Sundown Heaven Town, is way too long, coming in at a whopping 18 songs. The problem with this is that the extra five songs don’t really add anything to this album, and actually take away from the overall quality of Sundown Heaven Town. However, deluxe edition or not, Tim McGraw still has a number of quality tracks here. We can breathe easy because it appears McGraw’s trend chasing days may be over.

The Best Songs on The Album

“Meanwhile Back At Mama’s” still stands as a great song and is, without a doubt, one of the better songs here. The other big standout song here is “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools.” McGraw sings this song with his cousin, Catherine Dunn, providing background vocals and harmonies. Dunn has a beautiful voice here and this may jump-start her into a record deal. Back to the song, this is a great country love song with steel guitars and simple instrumentation about recognizing how temporary and unfulfilling a life of booze is compared to longevity of marriage and love. “Sick of Me” is a song about a couple after a break-up. She is doing well and he is drunk/hungover, feeling sorry and missing her. He’s tired of who he is and wants to change to get her back. There’s a quiet steel guitar behind the drums and electric guitars here; this song does a good job of blending traditional country sounds with a modern rock country sound.  Finally, “Portland, Maine” is a great acoustic heartbreak song. In this song about a long-distance relationship ending McGraw, in a time zone far from the East coast, pulls the plug because it’s not working. He knows she won’t be coming back home and they know he won’t leave that town. It’s sad, it’s heartbreaking and Tim has a great, stripped back vocal performance here.

The Worst Songs on The Album

If we’re just looking at the normal album, “Lookin’ for that Girl” is the only one worth calling out for its terrible auto-tuned, electronic crap trying to pass as a country song. Considering the deluxe edition, you can add “I’m Feelin’ You” to that list for pretty much the same reasons. Auto-tune does not belong in country, plain and simple.

The Rest of The Album

Tim McGraw has some solid modern country songs like “Overrated.” This song has a nice banjo beat and builds to a rocking chorus in a song about love being the only thing that matters in life. It’s a great track to kick off this album. McGraw’s next single, “Shotgun Rider,” is undeniably country in sound. Lyrically, a little trendy with a girl in the truck, but this song stands out because this song could be about his wife, finance or a girl he intends to propose to. The point of this song is that this is the “shotgun rider” Tim McGraw wants for the rest of his life. Songs like “Words are Medicine”, “Dust” and “Keep on Truckin’” are a little cliché in their respective content areas about lifestyles and overcoming hardships, but they’re a pretty typical country-rock blend and don’t sound out of place here. “Last Turn Home” and “Still On the Line” have much more pop sounds in the music. However, both these song offers some depth about love and heartbreak respectively, so in my mind they’re not terrible.

The deluxe edition offers a lot of mediocre songs behind a fairly solid album. “Lincoln Continentals and Cadillacs” is a pop-country song that McGraw sings as a duet with Kid Rock. This is the type of song you’d expect from Kid Rock and to be honest Tim isn’t terrible here. It’s about reminiscing to the old days when they were cool guys with cool cars getting girls. In today’s mainstream radio, the song may be viewed with a bro-country eye. But while the song isn’t as deep as the better tracks on this album, it has a fun nostalgic feel to it. Also, since this is a deluxe edition song it leads me to believe this is intended to be an album novelty (and maybe for award show performances) more so than a potential single.

Overall Thoughts

The rest of the deluxe edition, “Kids Today”, “The View”, and “Black Jacket” aren’t all that strong and certainly filler songs. In fact, just due to the fact that Kid Rock is featured, “Lincoln Continentals and Cadillacs” is the only bonus track that has some purpose or marketability. The deluxe version bogs the whole album down. The 13 songs of the normal version of Sundown Heaven Town carry some good weight for mainstream country. For the most part, you get a sense that Tim McGraw and his team realize that there’s a want for more traditional sounding country music back in the mainstream circle. There are songs that toe the line between modern musical trends and traditional sounds, but many songs here feature good lyrical content and depth. With the exception of “Lookin’ for That Girl,” the regular version of the album is the type of album McGraw has built his career on and the type of album he should release. Tim McGraw still has relevancy with his music; he’s one capable of bringing mainstream back to more of its roots and several songs here prove that. Overall, fans of Tim McGraw and traditional country music overall can breathe a little easier now, especially listening to the first half of Sundown Heaven Town.

Grade: 7.5/10 (Deluxe Edition: 6/10)

 

The Mavericks Announce New Album Release Date (Updated)

After announcing back in June they had a new album prepared for 2015, The Mavericks just announced last night on their Facebook page the official release date. Their new album is set to be released on February 17, 2015. No album name or track listings have been officially announced yet. It will be the follow up to their critically acclaimed comeback album, In Time, that they released in 2013. When more details are available regarding the album, Country Perspective will be sure to inform you.

UPDATE: The Facebook post announcing their new album release date has now been removed from their page. Perhaps they weren’t supposed to announce it yet?