Wednesday, May 17, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Zac Brown Band "Welcome Home"

Zac Brown Band
Welcome Home
Elektra Records
Southern Ground Artists

You can sugarcoat liquor
commercials and dope
endorsements with all the
fake, down-home, good
ol' boy, "Thank the Lord,"
"Aw shucks" rhetoric in
the world. But they're
still liquor commercials
and dope endorsements.

Overseen by Grammy-winning producer, Dave CobbWelcome Home is the fifth full-length studio batch of (not so) well-disguised liquor commercials and dope endorsements from the multi platinum-selling, superstar Zac Brown Band.

We'd start the show with a round of whiskey, the group's namesake / frontman confesses during the record's rather banal opening track, "Roots." The chicken-fried "Summer of '69"-inspired sing-along finds Brown waxing nostalgic, further recalling, My first best friend was a 6 string — Took him with me everywhere I go — When I was 18, bought a Dodge van — Found a drummer and made the road my home.

Despite Brown's flowery poetry pointing to finding a "good woman" and discovering a "great song," the piano-driven, "Real Thing" is one of the record's more "slippery" tracks. The irresistible, gospel-tinged number also proclaims boldly, One sip and it blew my mind — Those good ol' boys sure make it right — Knowing smooth whiskey takes some time — Ain't nothing like the real thing.

On the surface, "Start Over" sounds so familiar, "you can almost taste the hot dogs and French fries they sell." However, Brown's gleeful invitation to his "Darlin'" to "Smoke a 'J' by the waves while we sip on some ice cold Corona," takes a potentially fun highlight and turns it into a tall, ice-cold glass of soul poison.

The annual statistics regarding alcohol-related
accidents, violence and deaths are staggering.

But be sure, my keen eagle-eye ability to spot Zac Brown as a shameless swill merchant doesn't cloud my open-minded ability to recognize that he's also a supremely gifted singer / songwriter. And his band undeniably one of the best in the biz. Hence, I'd be remiss in not pointing out the record's many bona fide highlights — standout tracks, including the Dickey Betts-flavored "Family Table," the father and son tear-jerker "My Old Man," and the gorgeously moving acoustic record-closer "All the Best." Mad props are also owed to Madison Ryan for bringing authentic Kinleys-style vocal warmth and charm to the record's crown jewel, "Trying to Drive" — BRAVO!

When Gene Simmons runs around in platform boots, spitting blood at age 67 and Stevie Nicks is onstage still doing her "witchy woman" thing at age 68, they aren't parodying themselves, they're merely giving fans what they paid to see. And in that regard, I don't believe Zac Brown is trying to destroy families and crush lives through the garbage he peddles. No sir hunky "down-home" boys sporting V-necks and beards who love the "good Lord" would never do that, not intentionally, anyway. Clearly, the Zac Brown Band is merely supplying their customers' demand like any other savvy, successful businessmen would. Well, as Bob Dylan once said, "We all gotta serve somebody."

-Christopher Long
(May 2017)

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